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The Metis floral designs are distinct in that all the motifs are usually connected with tendrils or stems. They also exhibit the Ojibwa pattern of always representing four parts of the plants. Floral patterns usually include ‘four states of vegetation,’ seed, leaf, bud, and fruit or; stem, leaf, bud and flower. This cycle of four corresponds to myriad other ‘four quarters’ and ‘four stages of life’ analogies in Ojibwa/Chippewa thought. The Metis are taught to bead a mistake into their work to guard against hubris or excessive pride. This reminds us that “only the Creator can make something that is perfect.” Metis designs sometimes contain the "X" and cross motifs which suggest the cardinal directions as well as Ojibwe spiritual concepts. These designs are pictorial or diagrammatic metaphors of a larger, sacred universe; the four quarters and asymmetrical design reconcile opposites, just as the cosmos creates balance and harmony. Asymmetrical yet balanced designs and compositions are also suggestive of male-female balance and harmony. The asymmetry and alternating elements express Anishinaabe/Metis spiritual concepts; they visually reconcile opposites, just as the cosmos creates balance and harmony.
The beaded tobacco bag shown above exhibits the X motif and has a balanced asymmetric desi8gn. All the motif’s are connected by stems. Note the “out of place” orange bead at the base of the flower on the upper-left. (Beading design by Jennine Krauchi, beaded by Lawrence Barkwell.)
This beaded Fire Bag also demonstrates asymmetric balance and an X pattern. The four elements are plant leaves, seeds, flowers and stems. (A variation of an 1870s Metis pattern, beaded by Lawrence Barkwell.)
Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute