Native American Beadwork

There is an explosion of interest in beadwork these days. Beaded jewelry, and everything that is related to it, can be found almost everywhere you look – the internet, county fairs, craft shows, the mall, church bazaars, museums, jewelry stores, . . . and on and on and on!

Today, we find books, magazines, and classes illustrating how the work is done. We can order beads from all points of the globe and they’ll show up on our doorstep in a matter of days. We can buy tools and gadgets galore that make beading easier, quicker, blingier. We can study the beadwork styles of the Africans, ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Indian, Russian, and Middle Eastern jeweler of the past and present.

Once upon a time, though, the local artisan relied only upon his or her native habitat to produce the materials and inspiration behind the jewelry. This is certainly the case with Native American beadwork.

And the reliance on only things found in nature is one aspect of Native American beadwork that makes it so enchanting.

Consider clay. Native American beadwork fashioned out of the clay soil found around the nation is made in many beautiful colors. The soil is different colors based on mineral content and mineral content varies from one geographic location to the next.

Consider materials. Native American beadwork can be made from the local elements – clay, stone, wood, horn and bone, to name just a few possibilities.

Consider design. Native American beadwork can be fashioned to represent the people, plants, animals, and other natural elements that are native to a particular environment.

With the diversity of natural influences available to the jeweler of old, traditional Native American beadwork is stunningly beautiful, an outstanding testament to talent, skill, and creativity.

Someone involved with beadwork today may walk through the desert, forest, or any other wilderness setting and see nothing. But the Native American beadwork artisan of several hundred years ago would have seen a bonanza.