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With Native American artists on both sides of her family, one could call it destiny that Lisa Marie David would eventually become one herself.
David, who is Lakota, First Nations and Welsh, grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a family of master artists. Her father, Joe David, is an established master carver with the Nuu-chah-nulth nation in Canada, while her mother, Sandra Tuifua, creates Lakota-style artwork. Both of her siblings are also carvers, including her brother, Douglas David, who is a master carver like his father.
“Our culture is strong in the teachings and learning our crafts,” David said.
David got her start while growing up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood in the 1980s, a historically diverse area up the hill from downtown Tacoma, most commonly known for its reputation of gang violence, drugs and shootings. But it’s also a place for art, containing the Fulcrum Gallery on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Growing up in the city helped David put an urban spin on her artwork once she started finding her niche. In fact, most of her family comes from urban roots, including her grandparents who lived in King County.
She began learning art from her grandparents and aunts when she was 8 years old. One of her biggest influences was her grandmother on her mother’s side, Carol Bluehorse, who started her off with peyote stitch, an off-loom bead-weaving technique used to create sculptural beadwork, as well as necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Around the same time, her father, Joe, put a carving knife in her hand and began teaching her how to create masks and other small wooden items. She learned a little, but it didn’t stick.
“I’ve learned a lot of different mediums,” David said.
She also grew up touring the West Coast powwow circuit with her family, as her parents showcased their artwork at powwows all the way from Washington state to San Diego, California. It helped her see types of indigenous art from all over the U.S. and incorporate it into her own artwork later on as she grew up.
“I grew up in art studios, going to art show openings and I was exposed to grand museums,” David said.
She can create just about anything now, and enjoys working mostly with leather, willow, beads and feathers, creating everything from baskets to dreamcatchers. She taught herself how to harvest cedar bark, soak it and create handmade non-traditional cedar baskets.
“My connection to my ancestors is through my art,” David said.
Her favorite thing to do is working with beads, however, a craft she’s perfected over the years.
Now, after living in Lewis County for over a decade, she sells her own art out of her apartment in Centralia. Her Facebook page at facebook.com/NativeAmerican.Art1 displays her newest creations.
She’s featured her artwork at places such as at the annual Puyallup Labor Day Powwow and the Stillaguamish Tribe’s Festival of the River powwow in Arlington. She even gifts a lot of her creations at the powwows, especially to the young dancers and toddlers.
Her next aim is to begin painting canvases more regularly as she’s painted many different styles of shields out of rawhide and would like to transfer that experience to the canvas. She’s also done collaborations with other indigenous artists.
“I can’t say it’s a hobby,” David said. “It’s part of me. I love the creation of each project I complete.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has left David missing and longing for many of the now-canceled powwows and art shows she typically attends each summer and she’s already looking forward to next summer.
For now, she’s hoping to write a book one day and open booths at farmers markets around Southwest Washington for next summer. She’s also focusing on getting her Etsy page up and running where customers can find and buy her art more easily. She’s even been thinking about re-joining the powwow circuit she once traveled on as a kid.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that with the connections through my art that my customers have understood the time I put into my work,” David said. “It’s important to be clear minded and be thinking happy thoughts about who would soon own my newest dreamcatcher. It goes for all that I create.”