The Art of my Ancestors as my Artistic Foundation

by Jacquelene Hollier-Jackson
Programs Assistant

Long ago, the shells from the sea, porcupine quills, elks teeth, bone, bear claws, turtle shells and even dear hooves were used to make beautiful beadwork that accentuated dancers as they moved, beadwork that highlighted the accomplishments of tribal members, and even beadwork to mark milestones in life. As time went on, and trade grew seed beads, metals, and precious stones were incorporated to add even more creativity and uniqueness to regalia. I started beading in the summer of 2016. My first project was a medallion with the seal of the Muscogee Nation, my tribe I worked so hard on it and I am so proud of it; even in this short time, beading has taught me many lessons. I learned patience, and beading skills, but more importantly I awakened a spirit inside myself that is so passionate about beading; it drives me to learn more and keep making beautiful pieces of art.

When I started this blog I didn’t know what direction I would go. Would I talk about my experience or would I ask other people about theirs? I decided to do both. I will talk about my beading journey and the tools and ideas that I have learned along the way. I will share some of the advice that I was given from people that are close to me and inspire me to keep going. And I will give a few tips that I use when I bead. So let’s get started.

Picture it… American Indian Health and Family Services the summer of 2016. It was glorious….

I was new to working at the agency, mostly working with the youth group, and learning more about myself as a Muscogee Creek Nation tribal member. I did research about Native American arts and was honored to be able to learn how to make moccasins and how to bead. I have made 2 pairs of mocs and have beaded a number of things I am so proud to showcase my talent and be connected to my ancestors.

When I first started to bead I took on a huge project-a medallion- and, at the time, I didn’t know how much work I would put into it. But now I see just how much work beading actually takes. I have a new found respect for beaders because beading is hard work. It really takes blood, sweat, and tears. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have pricked my fingers beading or the times I have been focusing so hard that sweat has formed on my brow, but it is all worth it to see my skills grow and progress each day. I watched a lot of YouTube videos to learn different beading techniques and I used Pinterest for inspiration on what to bead and what to use to bead various pieces. Learning to bead is one thing, but learning how to do edging or how to make shapes and letters is a whole different ball game. I remember the first time I did edge work. In all honesty, it was sloppy and had gaps, but now I make almost seamless edges and I owe it all to practice.

In the end, well maybe the beginning since I have only just begun, these three P’s (& one O) are my best advice:

  1. Practice- even if it takes you 10 earrings to get the edging perfect don’t quit.
  2. Patience-take deep breaths and breaks when you are beading. It’s supposed to be fun so don’t lose sight of that. And finally…
  3. Praise- give yourself praise whenever you are beading be proud of what you make.
  4. The last piece is an O, be Open to advice and critiques. The people who really know about beadwork only want to help you be better and see you do well, so accept the advice and the help. I wouldn’t be able to call myself a beader without the help of the beaders in my life. So I would like to say Mvto (Thank-you) to Shiloh, Sarah, Christy, and Nickole for always helping me and sharing your wisdom with me.

With the knowledge these wonderful women have shared with me I now bead and sell my beadwork on Etsy and I make gifts for my family. I hope that my learning journey can inspire others in some way, even if it’s just the spark that gets them started on their passions.  With any art form you make always remember to have faith and pride in what you do. If you are interested in exploring your talents in beading I recommend some of the following next steps:

  • Join a beading class at your local Indian center or cultural center.
  • If you are in the Detroit area, check out the men’s and women’s group at AIHFS or contact us to let us know you are interested in taking a class! We have lots of people willing to teach!
  • Check out Shiloh’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PaintedTurtleCrafts
  • Check out an upcoming powwow! There are always great vendors selling amazing hand crafted beadwork!  In fact, there is a powwow coming up just outside of Detroit the end of this month! https://www.facebook.com/events/784391181708948/

What steps will you take to pursue beading?  Is there another passion you are thinking about pursuing?

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