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Alyssa Muse

Handcrafted dreamcatchers made with respect to the beliefs behind them.

Handmade in Acadiana

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If you grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you probably remember seeing a dreamcatcher hanging in someone’s home or dangling from a rearview mirror. For some time this art form seemed like just a fad of the hippy era, but dreamcatchers are an important part of American Indian life and culture. And, while artist Alyssa Muse creates what Natives would consider modern-day dreamcatchers, she brings to her pieces a deep appreciation of the craft and the beliefs behind them.

Muse lives and works in her Morgan City Boho-style art studio, which she opened four years ago after getting burnt out with her job at an oil and gas company. The Krotz Springs native was introduced to dreamcatchers when a client commissioned her to do a painting of some of them for her daughter. "I was working off a few pictures, but I just couldn't get the strings in the web right," Muse recalls. "I needed to know how dreamcatchers worked to accurately represent the entangled shapes. From my stash of craft materials, I pulled a bamboo embroidery hoop and some hemp cord and started playing with it until I wove my first dreamer. I was making the design up as I went along," says the artist.

A Good Sign

While many Native Americans believe dreams (good and bad) influence the conscious soul of the dreamer, it is the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) Indians that are said to have originally created the dreamcatcher. Ojibwe legend has it that a woman prevented her grandson from killing a spider. In thanks, the spider taught her how to make webs to catch bad dreams, and the dreamcatcher became an integral part of the culture.

Traditionally hung above beds or cribs, dreamcatchers were meant to protect sleeping people, usually the tribe’s children, from nightmares. Native Americans first wove a spirograph design of animal tendons or plant fibers inside a hoop made of a willow branch. The talisman was decorated with sacred or personal objects, like beads and feathers, that hung below the hoop. The intent was that the bad dreams would be caught in the web design long enough for the morning light to burn them away. Good dreams would find their way out of the center hole and softly slide down through the feathers into the minds of the sleepers.

As a believer in signals from the universe, Muse took it as a good sign when she was weaving her first dreamcatcher and a spider fell from its web above her head. “I haven’t been able to stop making them since. They’re therapeutic and I love the message behind them,” says the artist, who has since discovered she has two great grandparents who were full-blooded Native Americans.

Tranquility and Peace

In her most recent work, labeled the vintage collection, Muse made hoops from vintage wooden beads found at an artist’s estate sale. Whenever possible she tries to incorporate natural materials, using grapevines sourced from a local nursery for the hoop. Although harder to come by, she uses feathers only found in nature, like the turkey quills she recently acquired from a friend. Normally her dreamcatchers are anchored by long, beautiful manes of soft, homespun yarns that she meticulously color coordinates.

For the stone in the center of the web– which holds the nightmares until morning – she almost always uses crystals, but not before she has cleansed them with sage and energized them under a full moon. Tiger’s Eye is another go-to stone for Muse, as it is known for dispelling anxiety and promoting clarity. Between her methods and her calm, positive vibe, it’s not difficult to believe it when she says, “Each dreamcatcher is woven with love and the best intentions for tranquility and peace.”

There are no sketches involved in her work; each piece develops organically with the mind and hands of the artist working together. “I’m a very intuitive creator. I have to pick up the materials and play with them, and the magic happens. As soon as I get into something, I know if the design is headed in the right direction,” she explains.

Depending on the size and complexity of the piece, it takes Muse one to five hours to create one of her “protective charms,” as she calls them. The largest one, 5’7” long, was designed for a childhood friend who was expecting twins. “It represented the boy and

girl energy, with rose and clear quartz – a universal healer,” she says. Each dreamcatcher has a purpose and a story that Muse develops by asking clients questions about the likes of the intended person, the house it’s going into, and sometimes requesting a picture of the room in which it will be placed.

Power of the Hoop

Because of her process, Muse makes her dreamcatchers in batches, when she feels inspired. As she describes it, “There’s a very distinct feeling when I’m making the tails or when I’m looking for a specific crystal,” she explains. “It’s like the dreamcatcher is waiting to look a certain way. Each piece that I create already has someone predestined for it. Customers walk up and connect with certain ones.”

That seems to have been the case for one woman, who bought a dreamcatcher for her five-year-old daughter experiencing bad dreams. The story is one that continues to inspire Muse, as she recalls, “Sometime later, the little girl came up to me at a show, with her mom, and said she hadn’t had a bad dream since her mom hung the dreamcatcher in her room.”

While the artist gives her dreamcatchers to friends, family and a few strangers as gifts, she also sells them at The Market in Morgan City, on Instagram, at festivals, and at pop ups around Lafayette, where she has found a growing fanbase. Her mini dreamers can be found at The Handy Stop Market & Café on Jefferson Street in Lafayette. And she hopes to soon participate at Lafayette’s downtown Artwalk, where she will also show her acrylic paintings.

“When I moved from Florida to Louisiana a few years ago, it was a hard transition, and painting pulled me out of it,” she recalls. Her first piece was a Magnolia, which she instinctively fingerpainted. Over the past three years, she has shared her paintings (which lean toward modern impressionism) of flowers, plants, birds, and pets on Facebook – along with her dog rescue efforts (another story for another time). Away from her studio, she paints live wedding scenes and teaches classes at paint parties each month.

“I just love how this art journey is taking me to unexpected places,” Muse says with amazement. For now, she is perfectly content protecting against nightmares in the dream world, while bringing beauty to the conscious world.

Alyssa Muse’s dreamcatchers and artwork can be found on Facebook or Instagram @the_aviary.

Decoding Dreamcatchers

The belief system around dreamers is intricate and beautiful, so we found a few interesting details about the components of the sacred talisman:

- The center circle represents how the sun and moon travel across the sky. 

- The number of connections in the web can represent a star, spider, eagle or phases of the moon.

- The feathers, also meant to catch the eye of infants, symbolize breath or air.

- Owl feathers signify wisdom and eagle's courage.

- Dreamcatchers should be placed in sunlight for cleansing.

- They are supposed to be gifted or bought, but never taken. 

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