Saturday, July 28, 2012


a new reference book arrived in the mail this week; had read about it on Angela Swedberg's blog as it features a horse mask she made (and modeled by her own Appaloosa). Its a good book on an interesting aspect of regalia and it differs from American Indian Horse Masks (2007) by including other elements such as saddles, bridles, blankets, saddlebags and even quirts. It is well illustrated with photos of museum objects, detailed ledger book drawings, and historic photos from parades etc when folks display all their horse finery. The writing concentrates on the object's details but includes a large bibliography of well known works for those of us wanting to know more about the place of horses in the lives of native peoples.
It has just one photo of a toy horse but I'm inspired enough to consider making a leather horse and creating the needed regalia. Interestingly I found on Ebay a model horse supplier that carries metal and resin Native saddle trees for hobby folks who decorate plastic Breyer horses. I would like to get these little things for reference but mine would be made from carved wood just as the real ones were. Womens' saddles included a high pommel from which cradle boards could be hung...I was surprised by the detail of the model makers (and even more surprised that there was a market for them in the 1st place!!).
I doubt my horse would ever look like this one but it would be amazing to create it for a doll (Plains men measured much of their worth in horse wealth):
be sure to click on this photo to admire all the amazing beadwork, whew!!
a future project perhaps.......

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

new shoes

I need to buy some new shoes soon; I'm not a shoe person in any way and run barefoot all summer, but classes will start soon and I'll have to put my hillbilly life away (insert sad frown here). So I began looking at Kohls and was a bit puzzled by the Converse moccasins (which seem only 1 step above the old Minnetonka fake looking moccasins). I see the college girls in moccs and I know they are a popular fashion accessory, but there have been some grumblings lately about turning indigenous culture into just another mass marketed commodity, ignoring the important traditions and ideas associated with native art forms.
 But clearly culture crosses over boundaries and this leads me to the amazing work of Kiowa bead artist Teri Greeves!! Much of her work is done on canvas high tops, but others are more fashion type shoes; all seem to feature pictorial, ledger style images.

I think there is a real difference between an artist reinterpreting a foreign object while working within an existing cultural paradigm, one creation at a time, and the mass production of objects without any attached cultural meanings. I am unlikely to buy the Converse moccs and even more unlikely to ever buy a pair of Teri's incredible shoes...and really unlikely to ever bead a pair of Converse myself, but there is a slight chance I will eventually get around to making myself a new pair of moccasins....

in the meantime I'll have to go shoe shopping...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Buffalo bag

finished up another small project, will get it mailed out this week as a surprise to someone who recently sent me a generous packet of printed materials. I made the rosette after hearing about the killing of a yearling white buffalo on a ranch in Texas. Need to make some slight adjustments to the pattern to even out the four directions colors...I don't do alot of figural work, but I think the buffalo image turned out pretty good and I see some potential for others. I recently bought pretty brown luster beads to try another buffalo which would look nice on a dark hide pouch.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mandan shirt

I follow a wonderful artist named Angela Swedburg on both Facebook and her blog...she doesn't post often but this new shirt project appeared today. My guess is she used elk hide, decorated with a large center medallion of porcupine quillwork, plus full ermine (weasel) skins...pricy little critters! Also dyed horse hair and bead work. Its her interpretation of an old Mandan shirt; the trapezoidal figures around the neck are a Northern Plains style often found in rock and shield art (listened to a great paper on this topic at the Plains Anthro conference held in Bismark, ND). All in all a mighty nifty item and likely a custom piece for someone or a museum.....amazing how much pride and work went into clothing in the past, as well as the present. For more info I recommend a good book on men's shirts:

Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts by Joseph D. Horse Capture and George P. Horse Capture (Jul 2001) available thru Amazon etc.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Natl Museum of the American Indian

one of my favorite books is Identity by Design published by the Smithsonian featuring native women's clothing and art...there are gorgeous close up color photos of bead work decorating women's hide & cloth dresses, historic photos showing women in their lovely outfits and informative text on how they were made. There are many photos of other items as well including cradles, moccasins, purses etc. Women are usually not well represented in art books on Indians, despite the fact that they made many (if not most) of the items worn by tribal members, and that their own clothing was just as elaborate as men's.

I was super delighted to see the NMAI on-line store selling notecards from the book & collection so ordered some for myself and friends. Now I see that I will need to order more to pass along to other friends!! If I owned a nice stationary & fountain pen shop I would stock these.                       
They are available at:
NMAI has a great website with all kinds of nifty information and if you are needing/wanting a book on Native American women's art I recommend this one, you will love it!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

In a far away future....

Years ago I saw images of beaded doctor's bags and fell madly in love with them. Finally I found a set of instructions in the amazingly great craft magazine "Whispering Wind" so I bought 2 old bags on Ebay with the thought that I might try. The bags arrived and I realized they were more like traveling valises, too big for my initial effort and so they sit, rejected in a corner of my office. Today a box arrived...a wonderful friend found a small one for me and it will be just the perfect size. These bags appeared on the northern plains in the late reservation era when women had more time on their hands and were being exposed to government doctors and even veterinarians. The style evolved into women's handbags as well as covering small boxes....the activity probably ended in the 1920's or 1930's but a few artists are doing them still. So here is my rough bag which is in really good condition (smells a bit due to its age and the inside will need to be relined, but according to the instructions that is not unusual) as well as some examples of what I hope to achieve (nothing quite so elaborate for my first attempt but I like a good challenge). I think I may sell the 2 large bags and use the money to buy beads....hard to say when such a project could happen given that I have some other work to do but maybe this next winter. With sincere appreciation to Jethro for his kind generosity (maybe he will even get the bag back at some point in the future).


after spring semester ended I wrapped up some pending projects, including my checkbook cover. I have wanted one for some time and its rare that I keep anything for myself. It was my 1st effort so I learned some important lessons and perhaps I'll make another one for a friend who recently retired from her job (I still have yet to give her a retirement gift). I made a rosette (which is a bit clunky), attached to another layer of interfacing and beaded the rest. This was then attached to a nice piece of white deer hide (a soft split double suede). I also added a small silver feather charm. It is surprisingly heavy but I like the outcome. Its not as nice as ones you can buy at a gallery or on line but I think its a fair version and good enough for me!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Finishing up outstanding projects

Ordinarily I do lots of craft and bead work over the winter but this year I started a few projects and never finished. So May was the month for completing odds and ends....finished a pair of woodland style baby moccs; finished my own checkbook cover; made a medallion necklace that had been promised in Spring 2011 and also did plenty around the house: put in a new raised bed veggie garden; cleaned the deck and set up my gazebo for outdoor summer living; cleaned the home office (making it possible to even reach the craft storage area) and am getting ready to strip the old layers of wallpaper from my dining room.
Then comes word that a friend is pregnant and so I offered to make a cradle (not sure if it will be a newborn soft cradle or a full Kiowa style cradle) and I also offered to make a pair of Creek/Seminole baby moccs for another friend. Whew! Also found a nifty pattern for a white buffalo rosette that I will try and see how it looks...rosette making is good practice and if they turn out ok I save them and use for small hide bags (easy to make and perfect for birthday or Christmas gifts). I forgot to photograph the medallion necklace but it became a yellow version of a daisy pattern that I had made before...
(a small bag I made for a Caddo friend...I like how the rosette pattern turned out)

added bone hair pipe and Crow beads to the lacing, should be about what my friend was wanting I think.
Its so nice to have a clean office and have all my craft items neatly put away where they belong. Its also great to complete so many little projects and honor old commitments before starting new ones. And it nice to relax a bit and work on rosettes; I look forward to seeing how that buffalo will turn out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Checkbook cover pt 1

I've been wanting a checkbook cover for awhile now and it seemed like a good project (not too big and also useful). I like to work out the kinks on a first draft before making something to give away and there are plenty of mistakes on this one! I am beading on a soft interface (need to use a stiffer, heavier weight instead), doubled and held in a quilting frame. When done I'll attach it to a thin hide (split or chamois). It won't be great but I'll enjoy having it and hopefully I am learning as I go!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Practice makes....something

as noted in my last post I decided to get back into the habit of bead work with a small rosette displaying the Medicine Wheel design. This image is often seen on the Plains and reflects balance, harmony, respect for the 4 directions and knowledge. I used size 11/0 French luster beads and it started out a bit wobbly, but after 2 days of work it was looking very nice...until I realized that I had placed the colors backwards! If it had been another design I would have let it go but such a sacred image deserves more respect; pulled it apart and returned the beads to their containers. I will try again using Japanese delicas for a tighter fit and this time will pay attention to color placement. Hopefully this time will be easier after all that practice!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I'm become accustomed to spending cold snowy weekend days trapped inside my house, a nice time to do bead work, but this year there has been almost no winter (and I'm not complaining!!). My sun room project filled up a lot of time and attention; the new patio doors let in lovely afternoon sunlight and it is cozy with the yellow walls and fuzzy blanket on the futon. Unfortunately my cats have taken over the space, leaving no room for me!
I have finally begun beading and discovered I'm out of practice. Decided to start small: a medicine wheel rosette which may get used for something...I don't keep much of my own work but have been wanting a checkbook cover so maybe I'll keep this (its really not good enough to give away as a gift) and incorporate it into the cover design. I'll try to rework the design using delicas to get a tighter fit. I should also finish the baby moccasins for Debbie as her son is growing fast! Have many other small projects to do, need to get all that cleared away before I plan something big. But its really nice to be working on something and I'm hoping this little project will turn out nicely in the end!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I generally do more bead work & craft projects in the winter months since I am stuck indoors (spring is spent in the flowers and summer finds me reading on the back deck). Moving from Oklahoma to the Chicago area for work has presented many challenges including the is cold most of the year (even summer fails to get hot enough for me), too humid, and precious little light during the winter months (when its not overcast it seems the sun sets around 4pm). But on weekend mornings my living room occasionally gets nice light from the east and south and I can bead for a few hours a day. But hopefully a new project will help expand these opportunities!!

My house has a small west-facing room between the kitchen and back deck, probably a back porch that was enclosed; strangely former owners had painted the room's walls & ceiling robin's egg blue. The heavy metal sliding patio door freezes stuck on cold nights and the space between the glass panels has been compromised, keeping the glass foggy. Generally the room sees little use and functions merely as a pass thru to the deck or basement but now it is getting a make-over! I purchased a new lightweight vinyl patio door and am painting the room to welcome all the sunshine that will now pour in...ceiling is white, walls are vivid yellow and wainscoting will be a soft grey. I will also move a futon from the guest bedroom so that I (and the cats) can sit in the warm early afternoon sun! I ordered a SW geometric fleece blanket from Noc Bay (a nice bead supplier in Michigan) and a SW style horse print from Allposters...the colors will fit with the yellow & grey walls and the new insulated curtains that should reduce the night cold. I'll add a white wire plant rack and some plants...hopefully the cats won't chew them up. I can use my wireless stereo system that normally goes on the deck (it catches a signal from my MP3) and if I buy a larger flat screen TV for the living room I can set up a dvd player for even more entertainment options while I work on new projects (although I suspect the combination of futon, soft blanket and warm sunshine will induce afternoon naps). This is really the first house project I have done in many years but I think it will really be worth the time & effort, especially on cold winter days. To add to the cat's pleasure I have a bird feeder that I'll set out on the deck which will finally be visible through the patio doors!!