NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Bern Richards, whose jewelry and other craftwork is for sale at North Salem’s Country Farmer, has been described as a “feathersmith,” a “shamanist,” and a “gifted poet.”
He also is a talented artist/craftsman, as a visit to his weekend stand at the corner of Bloomer Road and Route 121 will demonstrate.
Richards studied forestry in the Adirondacks at Paul Smith’s College, then spent three years during the Vietnam War in the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force taught him Russian and assigned him to work on top-secret documents in Turkey, where he became intrigued by indigenous cultures. Eventually, he centered on the culture of native North Americans and it ultimately became the focus of his life and philosophy.
“I started doing crafts in a carport in Raleigh, N.C. in 1972 and I've been doing it ever since,” he said. “I began with box-craft and footstools, using primitive pieces of tobacco barn wood, rope handles, leather hinges, calico and burlap. They were rustic and beautiful.
“I was always geared toward nature,” he said. For a period of time, he taught wildlife rehabilitation at Green Chimneys. Meanwhile, he was learning more and more about Native American culture and became deeply fascinated by the symbolism of feathers. Today a large portion of his work is related to the feather world.
“I began to give out ‘love bundles’ around 1972, four a day,” he said. A love bundle is a tiny packet of cedar, sage, sweet grass and tobacco, tied into a pouch and topped with a lovely feather.
“I give them to people who need some love," he said. "When they feel they've received some through the presence of the love bundle, they pass it on to someone else who needs it.” People sometimes send the bundles back to Richards, “after they got the love,” he said. “I've gotten them back from all over the world.”
Richards’ jewelry and other pieces are sold all over the country. Some is for sale at the Aldrich Museum’s gift shop in Ridgefield. On summer weekends, he sets up a table at the Country Farmer and will continue to be there until the fall.
He also does nature card readings and gives workshops. He can be reached at email@example.com.