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.