Amanda Crowe was an Eastern Band Cherokee Indian woodcarver and educator, who was known for her smooth carvings of expressive animal figures, especially bears. She kept her ancestors’ traditions alive through both her artistry and her teaching, influencing generations of artists.
Google has created a Google Doodle in Crowe’s honor for November 9, 2018. According to Google, the Doodle was also designed to honor Native American Heritage Month. Google calls Crowe “a prolific artist.” Crowe died in 2004, but her art and the legacy she left in the world lives on through her carvings, which are on display in many prominent museums, including the Smithsonian and Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
“The grain challenges me to create objects in three dimensions,” she explained. “A mistake or flaw in the wood will improve your design. To me, a knot can be the best part.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Crowe’s Nephew Helped Create the Music for the Google Doodle
The video Google Doodle honoring Amanda Crowe was the result of the work of many dedicated people, including members of Amanda Crowe’s own family.
According to Google, the team was led by Lydia Nichols and the Doodle was created “in collaboration with the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual as well as William ‘Bill’ H. Crowe, Jr., woodcarver and nephew and former student of Amanda Crowe.”
The Google Doodle also used “high resolution imagery of Amanda’s true works housed in her homeland at Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, the nation’s oldest American Indian cooperative. The music is also an original composition by her nephew, Bill,” reports Google. You can read more about the Google Doodle’s background here.
2. Amanda Crowe Began Wood Carving When She was a Small Child
Amanda Crowe was an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee who was born in Murphy, North Carolina. According to Cherokee Traditions, her mother was “Anglo” and her father was Cherokee. The Cherokee Encyclopedia says she “was born in 1928 in the Qualla Cherokee community in North Carolina.”
At age 4 and a half, she learned how to “draw and to carve,” the site says, quoting her as saying, “I was barely big enough to handle a knife, but I knew what I wanted to do—I guess it was part of my heritage.” She wasn’t alone. Her brothers were carvers too.
Betty Dupree, former manager of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, said, according to Cherokee Traditions, of those days: “She carried a knife to school, and I was so scared of her. Later on, I figured out she was carving even then.” By the age of eight, she was able to sell her wood carvings, reports the Blueridge National Heritage Area website.
3. Crowe Branched Out to Other Cities & States But Returned to Help the Cherokee Nation
Amanda Crowe’s talents were noticed by many people, and she went to high school in Chicago and then “she went on scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned a master of Fine Arts degree, followed by study in Mexico with Jose de Creeft,” reports Blueridge National Heritage Area.
The lure of home eventually drew her back. The site reports that she returned to the Qualla Boundary in the early 1950s to teach art for a historical organization as well as at the Cherokee High School, where she remained for four decades. Some of her vintage carvings can still be found for sale on sites like eBay.
She was gone from home a decade before returning, according to the Cherokee Encyclopedia. Crowe is often photographed surrounded by students. Many current Cherokee woodcarvers studied under her.
4. Amanda Crowe Helped Revive Wood Carving – Especially of Bears – as an Art Form
Amanda Crowe’s legacy in the field of wood carving was immense. She helped preserve her people’s heritage and culture through her art. “She has exhibited carvings at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Atlanta Art Museum, Denver Museum of Art, and as far away as England and Germany,” according to Adobe Gallery.com.
The site reports that she was able, over the years, to transform carving “from a minor craft to a virtual art industry during her almost 40 years as a teacher.” She was furthering “traditional Cherokee woodcarving traditions,” according to a journal article on her legacy.
Her specialty was in carving bears, which is her signature wood carving. Her bears were fashioned out of “terra cotta, walnut, cherry, and buckeye,” reports the Digital Public Library of America. The site says Crowe’s bears were considered “expressive” and her “animal figures are highly stylized and smoothly carved.”
She was known for giving her animal sculptures human qualities and is regarded as bringing back a renewed interest in Cherokee wood carvings.
5. Crowe Loved the ‘Movement of the Grains’ as She Whittled
What drew Amanda Crowe to carving? According to Adobe Gallery, she described the allure in vivid terms that matched her spirit as an artist.
“The movement of the grains—they almost seem alive under your hands—and the beautiful tones and textures all add life to the figures you whittle,” is a line used to describe her work.