Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ready-made does seem easier...

I'm working on so many projects and it doesn't seem like I'm getting anything done! RSF says her list is so long it can never be done in her lifetime (too bad as I would like to add a fan to the pile). I learned how to wrap, so its lanyards for all...until I switch to bolos anyway. They are nice to do: not too hard, can be set down & picked up without losing one's place, and I can take them with me to work on during dull meetings at work. I'll try to get them all done in time for the holidays but I'm itchin' to get back to dolls; wish I had time to make a special one for a coworker before he retires. I'm also working on my first big cradle cover and have a March deadline on that project so hope to get lots done over the xmas break; I have poked around on it a bit lately and every little stitch brings us one step closer so I guess patience is the word there. Come to think maybe my pile will never get done either...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Marty Cuny part 2

here's another wonderful doll made by the Lakota artist Marty Cuny; i love his work!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dolls and ponies

I haven't made a doll for a long time and am starting to miss them; have been busy working on the cradle for RSF and a few odds/ends, mostly small hide bags. Soon I'll start making xmas gifts, maybe some beaded gauntlets/gloves. One doll element that I'm anxious to try is a horse; found an interesting pattern on a 4-H website but hes a bit too detailed if you get my meaning! So I'll try to modify the pattern and see how it goes. Then I found ones for sale on ebay; I googled the artist, Marty Cuny, and his name shows up as a stuntman for Hollywood films about Sioux folks. Hmmm. Hopefully I'll find other examples of his work as it is really inspiring. I've found a few old plains horses, including this Comanche horse and rider, but not sure if they were intended for play or more serious business.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I'm in the back half of my life now so if I want to get things done, I'd better get to it! For 30 years I've been attending pow wows but never had my own dance regalia...its time to start working on that. Of course a 3 hide dress would be lovely but we will start with something a bit more manageable...RSF has kindly offered to sew a wool cloth dress; I got the pattern and it looks so easy maybe I could do it myself. And then again maybe not. Next step: fabric. Today southern plains victory dresses are blue or red cloth with silver conchos on the belt & dragger but before modern cloth there was trade wool and brass. Without a doubt the most lovely blue wool dress I have ever seen has to be one made by Vanessa Jennings, a gifted Kiowa artist. Do yourself a favor and buy the Smithsonian book Identity by Design which celebrates plains and plateau women's clothing. Ok, so I don't expect mine to look quite like this but its a nice thought.

I think I'll go with a dark green saved edge stroud; saved edge is a lovely little white band that is left undyed and becomes a decorative element on the sleeves and hem. Its also more expensive than the broadcloth: $80 per meter and I'll need 2-3 meters. Green is a less commonly seen color although it is used by Crow women up north and I like its contrast with brass decoration. Other lovely colors include yellow and purple but those are a bit too bright for me. I found a supplier with old style brass sequins; they disappeared from my regular place and I wondered why...apparently they are no longer made. I order a small amount each time I order something else and in time I should have a little pile. I had hoped for a large number of elk teeth to decorate the yoke but no; I don't really care for the artifial ones and while dentallium is lovely its not quite right for me. Anyway I like the idea of using old French brass beads mixed with the sequins, complimented by brass conchos on the belt and/or tacks on the belt. Some wool dresses had hide fringe attached to the bottom and i like that idea too...

Next challenge: moccasins. Got a pattern even though I make them in doll size; surprisingly braintan hide is on sale so I feel now is the time to gather my materials. New moccs are mostly in white, but old ones were more natural. White looks nice with silver spots, natural with brass so I know where this dilema is headed. But I may have to buy 2 hides in case I change my mind.

Last will be all the belt bags etc. Goodness, this is getting complicated and I'm getting older still. Its entirely possible I will have grey hair by the time its all done!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


an important element of cradle boards are the amulets that once held a baby's umbilical cord; today these are really just decorative but they are fun to make and I've managed to get some easy patterns. But as usual I'm often more interested in an old photo and try to recreate it...I'm lucky to keep some pictures of my projects since I usually give the beadwork away as soon as I finish.
The eagle was inspired by similar ones featured in the book "The Flag in American Indian Art" which is sadly out of print but used copies can be found.


since I spend most of my time dreaming about projects I often find myself flipping thru craft catalogs; I even keep one on my desk at work but since I teach Native American Studies classes I can always tell my boss that I'm doing research (especially now that I am offering beadwork lessons to my college students). I don't live in Oklahoma anymore so don't have ready access to stores that cater to beadworkers such as Lyons in Tulsa or McKees in Anadarko. Now I rely on mailorder or vendors at pow wows. Here's who I like best: Crazy Crow down in Dallas (think it is owned by a Comanche family), they have almost everything and generally have the best prices. I also like Noc Bay in Michigan; they have some nice Great Lakes specialty items and I love the colored Nymo thread, plus I receive faster than Crazy Crow! A new find is Wandering Bull from the east coast; they sell to eastern folks including Iroquois customers and are the last ones to carry the old style brass sequins that I will add to my green saved list wool dress. They all have websites with current prices but I enjoy their catalogs. My favorite place for hide is Distant Drums on ebay; they have a nice selection at fair prices. Lastly is my local Tandy store; got a huge piece of rawhide recently and had a hard time explaining to my dogs why it wasn't a big chewie! I've seen the Fire Mountain site and overheard some ladies in Hobby Lobby talking about it but I don't do jewelry work and I never really go into the local beader boutiques either. If anyone has any other ideas please let me know!


I've heard that many little girls learned how to make dolls and doll dresses in preparation for their lives as mothers. I'm sure that's not going to be my path, but I do see the dolls I make as my children in a way. I have a vague idea what they will look like when I begin, but they "come alive" near the end when the hair & jewelry is added and I'm usually a bit surprised by the end result.
I started thinking bigger and decided to make a cradle for an old man who meant so much to me. His was made in 1910 or 1911 but had long disappeared; happily I found a drawing and description of it and decided to remake in a smaller version. Its hard to find many examples of Plains Apache cradles; maybe they are all mislabeled as Kiowa or maybe women received Kiowa cradles from relatives instead. Sadly Alfred passed just before I finished his but I decided to complete it for the family. Its been a good learning exercise and I'm now making one for a friend who is expecting in the spring. I was challenged by a lack of direction and information; once common cradles have become rare family heirlooms or museum pieces. I've worked from photos and tried to puzzle out as much as possible but recommended reading includes Gifts of Pride and Love, as well as Brave Hearts. I also found some good directions in the discussion forum at
While there have been challenges along the way, the projects have gone smoothly....both have been from the heart.


I have no real memory of why I started to make dolls but somehow I started. My initial efforts were basic: cloth body & dress with few ornaments; over time I've made & refined some patterns, gotten comfortable with beading more elaborately on deerhide splits and fine tuned some of the elements which need to be small. I find inspiration from all kinds of sources: a poster that hangs over my bed, ones being sold on ebay, and others made by really talented artists. If interested I'd recommend some reading materials including the book Small Spirits, some museum publications such as Connecting Generations (Montclair Art Museum), and Old Style Plains Indian Dolls (South Dakota Museum) and two articles from American Indian Art Magazine: "To Dress with Great Care" and "South Dakota Indian Dolls' Dresses." My first pattern came out of Whispering Wind, a nice little publication that I should subscribe to. There are some astonishingly gifted artists such as Rhonda holy Bear, Jamie Okuma, Diane Tells His Name and members of the Growing Thunder family; their work sets the bar and offers great inspiration.
All of my dolls are made for friends as gifts; they take on their personality by themselves and I don't think I really direct their path. My friends have been patient with me and I've offered to take back the old ones to exchange for new ones someday. My next step is to learn how to make leather horses so I can make all the horse trappings such as masks, marindales, saddleblankets etc. I haven't made one for awhile and miss their company.

A new begining

A friend introduced me to this new blog opportunity and I hope to be as successful...I'd like to use this as a way of connecting with others who share some of my passions, especially bead work. It has become my favorite activity and I'd like to think I'm improving (but can always use some good tips and suggestions). I started by making Plains dolls and have slowly moved into larger pieces such as tobacco bags and now cradle boards. I wish I had more time as my list of projects continues to grow; up next are southern plains moccasins, the bag set for a belt, and decorations for a trade cloth dress that a friend will make for me (no, I don't sew despite my constant use of needle and thread). I'll post some photos of my projects, lists of sources that have helped me and links to sites I enjoy.

When not relaxing with my beads I try to explore other aspects of life, history, culture, photos etc. I will always be thankful for the kindness and assistance of my research partner, Alfred Chalepah Sr who has recently passed after 97 amazing years of life in SW Oklahoma. Much of my work is done in honor of him; I hope he will continue to guide me and bless my efforts.