Saturday, May 17, 2014

Native Beadwork: Artistic Creativity, Beauty and Tradition. A piece of Tradition worth seeking.

When I was a teenager we used to go to some Native events in other Reserves. It was fun.  There would be dancing, live music, Jigging, Pow-wow, baseball games and food. 
I have fond memories of those times. The constant that I remember at these
events were the craft tables. People would have their wares for sale. Most of it was bead work. Necklaces, and all sorts of beading adornments. Lot of different styles and they were stunning.

Spectacular
The time is takes and the work that goes into the making of the Beaded necklace is evident in the work. 


Great Design. 
 As kids we never tired of seeing such beautiful design and necklaces.  The other popular beaded item was the belt,  the watch band and of course the head band. It think the Hippies made them popular in the 60's and 70's.  I don't believe there are worn much these days. All though they sure look good on the hat bands and beaded brims of hats.

The style and type of beadwork being done varies throughout North America. There are the geometric styles of the southern peoples, the floral designs of the woodlands and northern peoples. The different and various ways that beading is being used; form the necklace to the track shoe.  All creative and beautiful.
If you want to see masterful beadwork just go to a Pow-wow. Unreal the skill that is displayed at those events.

When the rise of Native political groups in Canada started to become more active, the Leaders of the day, tended to wear beadwork (and of course Turquoise). The most common things were the medallion necklace, the bolo necktie, the watchband or wrist bands and sometimes the belt. That style sort of disappeared in the 1980's. But you now see it making a comeback. I think it started with the youth.

Lot of youth started sporting the beaded medallion.  Of course the style of medallion wasn't your typical 1970's Thunderbird, it was different. You see some youth wearing logos of designer apparel, like the Nike Logo or Channel and Dolce Gabbana.  Many people are beading up a storm of professional sports teams.
Ironic 

Some of the type of beadwork is quite sophisticated and intricate. While others are very stylized or simple. In any case the work that goes into the beadwork is skillful.

One of the things that is starting to develop is the introduction of "not authentic" beadwork.  Your key chains, ear rings, and lanyards have started to become a mainstay in some of the Native crafts and art stores. This is of course reflected in the price. Many many Native items have been appropriated over the years; moccasins and mukluks being the best known items.  You can get moccasins made by anyone or of any kind of design. ("Note: Non-Native American Made But Hand Made" is a note on some ads)

In the United States there is a law or custom to label items as Native made, if it is fact Native made.  I don't believe that is the case in Canada. However, what bothers me (and I imagine the artisans) is the effect of cheap replicas coming into what is already a "niche" market.  I mean there are no "hippies" around to wear these beaded necklace?  The only people I see wearing this works of art are Native people. The market is small.  The work is hard and is done by a group of dedicated people. So the time and effort put into these beauties must be reflected in the cost. You would think?  But as my cousin says, "people are cheap".

What you would rather wear?  Something that is not authentic; or something rich in Tradition?  Or something that is produced in some place that has no connection to the history of the symbols or the meanings behind the work?  Would you be willing to purchase the authentic because it is worth it or would you rather purchase a pretense of the art?  I guess the old adage  is true, "you get what you pay for".

I am very glad that there are still many artists and families out there that are keeping up with Native art and craft (for me its all art). It is too bad that some don't see or recognize the value in their work. They would rather buy something that is a "reasonable facsimile" of the real deal.  Me, I like the history and Tradition tied to the item.

I think the Powwow people are keeping the Tradition strong.  It will be a shame when their regalia is imitated in wage poor countries. I was over visiting my cousin today and they were showing me the new beadwork that their son has for his Dance outfit. Just stunning.  He is hoping to wear his new Beadwork at the Painted Hand Powwow. 

So to all of you that are interested in the real deal, head out to a powwow or ask one of your Indian friends, they will steer you to a Native seller of "authentic" Indian made items.

And remember don't be cheap. The art is worth it.

If you want mass produced, go to Walmart, Target lot of adornments with no Tradition or connection.
Woman's Crown, You won't find that at Walmart. 

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