Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence

Now at the Dayton Institute of Art are grand, elaborate, beaded tapestries made by Xhosa (and one Zulu) women from rural South Africa, “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence.” Ubuhle means “beauty” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages. In the article on Dayton Local, Amy Dallis writes that the beadwork is contemporary in style, and covers contemporary issues such as HIV/AIDS as well as the universal themes of family, community, and hope. The largest of the 31 tapestries is 15 feet high, and seven women worked for a year to complete it. I wrote about this exhibition earlier, during it’s inaugural showing at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, and now it’s on tour.

This touring exhibition is in Ohio through September 10th. The tour is being managed by International Arts & Artists, and tour dates so far include the Flint Institute of Arts; the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (a lovely museum, I’ve been there); the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk; and the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, Melbourne, FL. I’ll see it when it gets to Iowa next summer.

Native American beadwork to enjoy

Three items have come across my desk/email lately that celebrate Native American beadworkers, and I wanted to share:

The Summer 2017 cover article of First American Art is beadwork by Marcus Amerman. The interview with the artist includes questions about creativity, what he needs for his creative process, his travels, his dream project, and his hopes for his creative legacy.

Reading from the preface, long-time Minnesota Historical Society curator Marcia G. Anderson wrote A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag as the culmination of a “three-decades-long love affair with gashkibidaaganag [bandolier bags]. I have scoured archives, museums, and other sources to learn about their origins and makers; I have met, learned from, and become friends with many contemporary Ojibwe bead artists, tribal government representatives, and keepers of the history of these communities.” Lois Sherr Durbin writes it is “Beautifully illustrated, carefully researched, and sensitively written…” I’m a big fan of MHS books – and this one is no exception.

And finally, New Mexico’s Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian presents the exhibition, “Beads: A Universe of Meaning” through April 15, 2018. “The exhibition traces the history of imported glass beads as a medium of exchange, artistic expression, and identity for indigenous peoples throughout North America.”

The Weather Diaries at the American Swedish Institute

The Weather Diaries just closed at the American Swedish Institute. I visited, and following are pictures of the beaded works on exhibition. There were pictures of models wearing beadwork as well, as shown in the exhibition link. From the website:

“A stunning exhibition of photographic artworks by Cooper & Gorfer linked with one-of-a-kind installations, The Weather Diaries explores the roots of West Nordic fashion and the inescapable impact of nature and weather in developing a centuries-deep cultural identity in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.”

The exhibition was produced by the Nordic House in Reykjavik.  These first two pieces are dresses made of beads by Nikolaj Kristensen of Greenland.

This is work by Jessie Kleemann of Greenland, an exaggerated beaded collar from the Greenlandic national costume.

I bought a postcard of a photo in the exhibition by Sarah Cooper of the United States and Nina Gorfer of Austria, entitled “Ena with Eyes Shut.” Click through, you won’t regret it.

2017 St. Paul American Craft Council Show

One of my jobs is working at the American Craft Council Library, and every year, I get to work in the ACC Library booth at the St. Paul ACC Show. This year, it is the best yet. Forage Modern Workshop has sponsored our space, providing bookshelves, a coffee table, a couch, and fun chairs. We brought a good number of beautiful craft books and vintage Craft Horizons and American Craft magazines (published by the ACC) from the ACC Library for show attendees to browse.


We brought our vintage photograph embroidery project, using extra photographs that were sent with press releases for exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, then a part of the American Craft Council, now its own entity as the Museum of Art and Design.


One of my favorites:


Opposite the Library Lab is the Let’s Make pavilion with local organizations such as the Textile Center, Foci Glass, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Directly opposite is Urban Boatbuilders, a local organization that offers apprenticeships for area youth building boats. They did an ACC Library Salon, and it was such a treat to be able to attend. Check out past and future Salons; our next one is this coming Wednesday, April 12, with production papermaker Mary Hark.


We also brought a small sampling of items from our archive, including local favorites Warren MacKenzie and Joan Mondale.


There are more that 225 top craft artists at the show. I made my main purchase already at the Preview Party this evening, a bronze Seckel pear with a ferric nitrate patina by Laura Baring-Gould.


The patina is extraordinary on this little guy, 2″ from its bottom to the top of its stem. As solid bronze, it weighs in at more than 9 ounches.

I will have more time to browse the show tomorrow, and I will thoroughly enjoy it. The show runs through Sunday, April 9 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.

A Common Thread at the Textile Center, 2017

A Common Thread is an annual exhibition of Textile Center members’ work. I visited today, and here are a few of my favorite things. Click on any of the images to see them full-sized. This is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and author and Holocaust survivor Fred Amran’s yellow star made a strong impact on me.

O’y ya’h ohdiwena goh: “Through the Voices of Beads”

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a beautiful town in Ontario; it reminds me of Charleston with its lovely old houses. There’s a great main street of shops plus an apothecary museum, and forts to tour – and I saw a mink in the park on Lake Ontario’s south shore two years ago, when I was looking across to Toronto. Here’s a reason to go there now, this traveling exhibition from the Royal Ontario Museum plus work by beadwork artist Samuel Thomas at the Niagara Historical Society and Museum. There are about 30 pieces of historic and contemporary Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) beadwork. The exhibit closes April 30. Read more on Niagara This Week. Even if you miss the exhibit, go anyway. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit, with lots to do and see in the area.

Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranaken World

This exhibition at the Peranaken Museum of embroidery and beadwork is one I’d dearly like to see. Blouin Art Info wrote a post about it, with a gallery of items included, as did the Straits Times. Peranaken Chinese are Straits-born Malay, descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago. Their beadwork is distinctive, and the shoes in particular are something I would love to see. If you are in Singapore before March 26, 2017, please visit!