Alaskan Grizzly and Owl
The intricate hand-carved designs of Shirley Brauker’s pottery depict vivid scenes of animals, trees and nature and often tell traditional stories. “A lot of them are so detailed that I actually type up the story and stick it in the pot so (the collector) can retell it,” she said. Her Woodland and Great Lakes style pottery is highly regarded. Two of her pieces are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. A large wall mosaic and several pottery pieces she created are seen at Disney Corp. in Orlando, Fla. Four of her pieces are in the Eiteljorg collection.
Through showing her pottery and art at Indian Market each year, Brauker has befriended collectors in the Indianapolis area. She recalled meeting her first Eiteljorg collectors while attending the first Indian Market Preview Party. One of her most loyal patrons was the late Mrs. Robert S. (Margot) Eccles, an Indianapolis philan¬thropist who served for years as an Eiteljorg board member and Indian Market chairperson. Eccles had collected several of Brauker’s pieces over the years, including the last one in 2012 shortly before her death; and Eccles sent her assistant to pick it up so it could be with her in her final days. “It’s so great to have this deep connection,” Brauker said of friendships with collectors.
Based in Coldwater, Michigan, Brauker has a strong focus on arts education. She received her fine arts degrees, both bachelor’s and master’s, at Central Michigan University, and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. In 2015 she received an honorary doctoral degree from her alma mater CMU and gave the university’s commencement address. She taught language and art for years at youth camps for Native children in Michigan and has conducted art work¬shops as far away as Alaska. In 2014, Brauker was one of the Eiteljorg’s Artists in Residence. “Education and teachings are really important to me and I try to pass that on to other Natives for inspiration and hope so they can learn,” she said.
Brauker also draws ledger art, and all of her works include a tiny sketch of a moon and bear, a motif that comes from her Native name, “Bear of the Nighttime Sun.” It also inspired the name of her art business, Moon Bear Pottery and Indian Arts.