Beadwork to see in Ontario and Los Angeles

There are a couple of exhibits I’ve learned about recently. Both are First Nations beadwork, one in Brampton, Ontario, and the other in Los Angeles, California.

First, a digression: I’m never quite sure what terminology I should use. The Ontario exhibit uses “First Nations,” and the Los Angeles one uses “Native Americans.” I am in no way an expert, but in my exposure here in Minnesota, exhibits in non-Native museums use “Native Americans,” and Native Americans seem to identify themselves by tribe or call themselves “Indian” when speaking. My local Native American Gallery is All My Relations, and their mission is to honor and strengthen relationships “between contemporary American Indian artists and the living influence of preceding generations, between artists and audiences of all ethnic backgrounds, and between art and the vitality of the American Indian Cultural Corridor.” I am as respectful to everyone of any culture as I know how to be, while fully acknowledging that I know only a little, and I may unintentionally not be. For example, I recently learned that a gentle handshake in Native culture can be a sign of respect. Reminder to self: follow the other person’s lead when unsure – and even when you think you know what you are doing…

Back to beadwork! The Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives in Brampton, Ontario (just west of Toronto) is exhibiting “Spirit Seeds: A Celebration of First Nations Beadwork” until October 13th. From the images, it looks like there are some lovely examples of Niagara Falls area beadwork. Also, there’s a beaded cuff class on October 4th.

In Los Angeles, the Autry National Center is showing “Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork.” On exhibit until April 26th, it is “a groundbreaking exhibition of more than 250 unique objects and personal stories. The exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how beaded floral designs became a remarkable art form as well as a means of economic and cultural survival for the Native North American people.” The exhibition catalog is by Lois Sherr Durbin. The Autry will also be hosting beading workshops.

Please visit if you are in either area, if you want to see some beautiful beadwork! If you can’t, read this article about the evolution of beadwork through the generations in the Prince Albert Daily Herald, and this article about a rare Cree coat at the Autry in the Los Angeles Times.

Edit (7/25/14): The current issue of Magazine Antiques (July/August 2014) has an article “A Fruitful Exchange” about the Autry exhibit. Six full pages, including a picture of a pair of quilled boots by Jamie Okuma. The article isn’t currently available on the website, but may be later.

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Linda Fifield

Linda Fifield is a Kentucky bead artist who is perhaps best know for beading over wooden vessels that she or her husband turns on a lathe. Her work is beautiful and precise, often with expert color gradations, and sometimes the addition of ruffles or flames tipped with orange.

The Kentucky Craft History and Education Association (KCHEA) has started loading videos of craft luminaries: “Linda was raised in rural Kentucky with her extended family engaged in functional crafts. She began her exploration of beading after being inspired by an exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum. Linda has developed a unique method of beading. In these excerpts she talks about influences of place and family in the development of her career, her beading techniques, and design influences. She discusses the benefits she has derived from participation with many different craft programs in Kentucky and the region.”

There are several videos on Linda Fifield’s page on the Kentucky Craft History website. Each video is about two minutes or less, where she discusses each topic individually. The purpose of the Craft Luminary Project is to document and preserve through video history interviews the personal stories of individuals who have made significant contributions to Kentucky’s craft movement and impacted Kentucky craft history. We are fortunate that Linda was chosen as one of the three samples posted, of the more than 60 interviews KCHEA has conducted over the last five years.

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David Dean seminar

Beading in the Native American Tradition by David Dean is one of my go-to references for Native beading. If you’re in Oklahoma, I just read in the Gilmer Mirror that Dean is teaching a seminar on Native American beadwork: “Items to be discussed include how to buy beads and supplies, basic instruction in four different and unique bead working techniques, history of how techniques are used and their purpose, how to age beadwork, and the significance of each technique in the development of beadwork styles on the North American continent. Many tribal differences will be explained as well as the use of the various techniques.”

The seminar will be at the Museum of the Red River in Idabel, Oklahoma on May 23-24 for a nominal fee, AND there is a free lecture. This is a great opportunity, if this is convenient to you.

Side note: I have updated my computer, making blogging more pleasant. While I’m really not beading much right now, I do have things I’d like to share. It’ll be easier now.

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Wordsmith: a meeting of jewelry and literature

This spring, Paper Darts Literary Magazine, curator Ann Tozer, and jeweler Stephanie Voegele will present a collaborative exhibition exploring the connections between literature and art jewelry. They wanted work from jewelers “concerned with issues of text, literature and storytelling and writers who engage with ideas that surround jewelry, objects and the body. Displaying these two art forms together, our exhibition will expose where writers’ and jewelers’ work meet.”

Selected entries will be included in an exhibition to be held at Magers and Quinn Booksellers and an accompanying publication. Both will coincide with the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ conference in Minneapolis April 23-26, 2014, “From Grains to Gold.” There will be other exhibitions/shows in the Twin Cities during this time, and many lovely things to see at the conference and elsewhere. I had two friends both make sure I knew of this possible opportunity to have my work exhibited. As a librarian and a beader, this was something that greatly appealed to me. This was the piece I made after returning from the sweet grass basket class.

In the story ‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant, Mathilde Loisel dreams of a life beyond the means of her family station and income. Her husband brings home an invitation to a formal party of the glamor she envisions as her right and destiny, so Mathilde buys a new dress, and borrows a diamond necklace from her wealthy friend, Madame Forestier. It was the party of Mathilde’s dreams, and she receives the attention she craves. Upon returning home and removing her wrap, she discovers the necklace is missing. Unable to find it, Mathilde and her husband buy a replacement necklace to return, without telling Madame Forestier. The Loisels endure poverty for ten years to repay the loans taken out to purchase the necklace, dismissing servants and taking additional jobs. This hard life damages and ages them. Mathilde happens upon Madame Forestier on a walk one Sunday after the loans are finally repaid, and Mathilde is unrecognizable to her old friend, as her beauty is gone and she looks like any other poor woman. Mathilde tells Madame Forestier that the change was on her account, and finally admits the story of the lost necklace. To that, Madame Forestier replies, ‘Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs!’

Heller-The-Necklace-flat

Heller-The-Necklace-detail

Instead of diamonds – or imitation diamonds – my necklace has Swarovski crystals, and instead of precious metal, it has glass beads. Embroidered with these beads is the memorable ending of ‘The Necklace.’ It is 16″ long.

Heller-The-Necklace-clasped

While this piece was not juried into the show, I enjoyed making it, and now I have a flashy necklace I can wear – and explain!

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Blackfoot bead artist Jackie Larson Bread at the C.M. Russell Museum

I remember reading in the last year or so that the Charlie Russell Museum purchased Jackie Larson Bread’s beaded war shirt. It’s a masterful piece of beadwork. It won best of division at the Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and shortly thereafter was purchased by the C.M. Russell Museum.

I actually have been to this museum in Great Falls, Montana. The mission of the museum is to “collect, preserve, research, interpret, and educate on the art and life of Charles M. Russell; the art and life of his contemporaries; and the art of preceding and ensuing generations that depicts and focuses on the culture, life, and country of Russell’s West.​” His name is sometimes preceded by the phrase, “cowboy artist,” to give you a quick picture of his work. I remember seeing beadwork at the museum, and I am pleased that they are continuing to collect more.

On April 10th, Jackie Larson Bread Bread will be giving the lecture, “Learning, Refining and Redefining: Blackfeet Beadwork.” She will compare  images from the exhibition George Catlin’s American Buffalo exhibit, with her own beaded war shirt honoring Blackfeet Chief Curly Bear. Bread will explain her contemporary bead ideas as applied to traditional items. Following a Q&A, she will lead a tour through the clothing galleries.

Bonus: Jackie is doing a UFO workshop at the museum on June 14th. I would love to sit in on that!

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