Fiber Friday 002 | #seed2runway
Fiber Art by Carola Blog
Do What The Spirit Says Do
Indigenous Women & Beads
Like so many indigenous women in what my Lumbee Sister, Patricia Brayboy , calls “Lock Down,” when we look around to start creating something with what we have — it’s beading! We love beading! We collect beads! We trade beads! We’ve got beads!
When studying with Christine Zoller @ ECUtextiles, I started collecting beads when I saw how many beads she had. I never saw all of her stash but when she said she had a room for her beads I was impressed and knew I needed to step-up my game. In 2018 I was a visiting artist in New Orleans with Desmond Melancon, Big Chief of the Young Seminole Hunters. When I visited his home studio and saw his collection and organization of beads, I was amazed. My collection of beads is modest compared to both Christine and Big Chief. I have then organized by color on a 4-shelf unit in my living room next to my beading work desk.
With my home studio in chaos, my sewing room trashed, no space to do embroidery or oil painting and the pandemic raging, I felt depression swirling around me. I was in danger of falling down The Blues rabbit hole of loneliness, despair and feelings of being a motherless child since the death of my momma. Looking around while crying tears from the stress of feeling overwhelmed, I saw my neatly organized collection of glass seed beads. It’s not much in terms of quantity but opening the plastic bins of colored beads helped me realize that I could survive this pandemic. I hadn’t done bead weaving since a cousin and childhood friend and I had fallen out over my beading. The pain of the drama had caused me to neatly pack up my bead weaving supplies and set them aside. The joy from Kumihimo beading was gone!
However, in these quarantine circumstances with the blessings of Divine Mercy what was lost is resurrected and made new. My little stash of glass seed beads helps me to relax and focus on being kind to myself. In turn I have energy to demonstrate love and friendship to others. In the two months of quarantine, I’m reconnecting with my childhood association with glass seed beads. We never had many beads on Down East Tusky land because historically you had to have sex with the traders to acquire beads. What seed beads that were available during my childhood we used for bead embroidery and crochet beading. Now that I’m living in lock down, I’m falling in love with Kumihimo braiding with beads because it’s something that I can do in the middle of the night or early in the morning. I rarely sleep all night. When I wake instead of stressing about having little money and being isolated at home, I can sit up in bed and start beading. Kumihimo is self-contained once you set up the form board. It’s ideal for starting and stopping and working on the fly. It requires focus, attention to details and it’s relaxing.
My quarantine beaded necklace patterns are born from using what I have to create something new. My goal is to make accessories for my regalia until I’m able to sew. Now my niece, Allison Lowery, wants to learn. I’m the proud auntie to Allison and Chana Smith. My necklaces are meant to honor calmness and inner peace during difficult circumstances. There are three versions, the white necklace is called Something New, so I can remember my grandmother’s teaching that each sunrise is a new beginning. The candy stripe lavender and white I call Algonquin Dreams to remind me to hold on to my ancestral heritage and don’t let myself get dead in this pandemic. The purple necklace which is a different pattern is called Purple Love. It’s meant to help me meditate on love and kindness to others.