Native American Beadwork : Still Flourishing Through Its Application in High Fashion

Native American Beadwork : Still Flourishing Through Its Application in High Fashion

Native American artists today carry on with traditional craft work, while adding elements that reflect their personal visions and interpretations. A number of Native American art works are mostly found in non-urban regions, as they continued to flourish even after colonial times.

Basketry, leathercraft, traditional weaving, headdress and mask making were commonly adorned with traditional beadwork The best known examples are the beadworks of the Great Plains Indians or the indigenous people who originated from the three Prairie provinces and parts of Canada and the United States.

Many Native American Indian tribes created impressive beadwork even before the arrival of the Europeans in the 1800s. Originally, they laboriously made beads crafted from natural materials like wood, animal bones, animal horns, teeth, shells, turquoise, copper and silver.

They later favored the glass beads that merchants from Venice and Italy used as trading medium, being far more polished and abundant since they arrived in bulks; allowing the natives to master their craft and pass their tradition to future generations.

Modern fashion is seeing a lot of the Native American beadwork being incorporated by the new breed of indingenous beaders. Through their work, they are keeping their cultural traditions alive and at the same time adding their own flair in making their beadwork trendy.

The video below shows Jamie Okuma a descendant of Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock tribes applying her beadwork skills on a pair of Louboutin boots.

Other Native American Beaders Highly Sought After in the Fashion Industry

Elias Jade, “Not Afraid”

Elias Jade is an Apsaalooké beader who says beading for fashion is one way for Native Americans to stay connected in order to keep their traditions alive, being part of their responsibility as younger members of Native American tribes.

He is a self-taught beader because while growing up in a Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, he was told beading is only for women. Upon reaching senior high school, he broke the stereotyping by making it known that he knew how to do beadwork and that he was gay.

Elias Jade’s bestsellers are his skull medallions and beaded cuffs that are sometimes lined with Kevlar ballistic fabric beaded with various geometric designs, .

Skye Paul

Skye Paul is a Dene native based in Toronto, who uses her beadwork artistry in running her “Running Fox Beads” business. She inherited her skills as part of the family’s tradition, which she found useful and lucrative by specializing in beaded patches for denim and leather jackets. Her signature work, are the rose patches that come in gradient tones of red.

Hollis Chitto

Hollis Chitto is a mix of the Isleta Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo and Mississippi Choctaw tribes, who is based in New Mexico. He specializes in high-end beaded handbags that buyers feel are too beautiful for ordinary use. That is because Hollis’ beaded handbags are made from fine materials, using expensive beads made from Swarovski crystals, semi-precious stones, silver and gold. Like Elias Jade, Hollis Chitto learned how to do Native American beadwork on his own.

Various Popular Beadwork Jewelry Artists

Catherine Blackburn (Dene), Bobby Dues (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate), Tania Larsson (Teetł’it Gwich’in), Lenise Omeasoo (Pikuni Blackfeet), and Molina Jo “Two Bulls” Parker (Oglala Sioux) are popular Native American beaders who have made a name for themselves in creating beaded jewelry. They often use the original Native American beader materials like porcupine quills, shells, fur. resin elk teeth, caribou hair tufting, and musk ox horns, just to name a few; often combining them with diamonds and other precious stones.