Under Amanda Crowe’s chisel, black bears sprang to life from a chunk of wood — rolling, swatting, raising up on their hind legs.
To Crowe, a Cherokee carver born in Murphy, blocks of walnut and cherry hid the animals’ powerful backs and playful paws — a canvas that grew from her native mountains.
On Friday, Google honored Crowe’s work through its Google Doodle — a temporary redesign of its home page. Her words scroll across the screen as her animated hands choose a favorite knife.
“I carve because I love to do it,” she explains in a short video. “The movements of the grain, they almost seem alive.”
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The animated Google Doodle links to a deeper explanation of Crowe’s life and work, introducing the world to the Qualla Boundary where she lived and worked, carrying a carving knife as an 8-year-old schoolgirl.
A separate “Behind the Doodle” video offers more about her legacy.
Though she excelled enough to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, she returned to Cherokee to teach for more than 40 years.
“I asked her how do you carve this bear,” said community tribal council member Boyd Owle in a Google video, “and she said, ‘Cut away everything that don’t look like a bear.”
Crowe died in 2004, but her work has shown in Atlanta and Charlotte, and her spirit persists in the creatures she gave life.
“When she made the bears and stuff, that were dancing, that was her,” said nephew William H. Crowe Jr., also a carver. “That’s the kind of person she was. Lively. ... Whenever she carved, it was with a feeling. It wasn’t scratch a little here, scratch a little there. Get it. Knock it out. The big bears didn’t take long to make because she had the feeling she wanted to do it. It was part of her life.”
Josh Shaffer: 919-829-4818, @joshshaffer08