Now going way back to junior high and high school in Ketchikan Alaska - this is when and where I first became acquainted with applique beading on felt and woolen cloth. The ones I learned from were marvelous... Doug Hudson in junior high and then the legendary Esther Shea. I learned so much, especially Tlingit flat design translated to beads and cloth.
But kids being what kids are, I learned, but did not continue. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I picked it up again... and I surprised myself at how much I'd remembered! It's kind of like riding a bike, when you do pick it up again you slide right back into it.
The method I learned was pick up 4, and go back through 2. This is all well and fine, til I began doing tiny crazy detail work. Detail, that's something I just can't stray far from. A couple of years ago I was working on some of this beading at the Puyallup Fair while exhibiting at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, and a very kind Yakima Indian lady came by, who was quite skilled at beading. "Oh no!" She admonished. "That will be too loose for you. Pick up two beads and go back through one!" That small bit of advice kindly given made a very big difference! It's the only way I'll do applique beading now.
When I picked up the beading again it was by way of being overwhelmingly inspired by a form of beautiful Alaskan regalia known as an Octopus Bag. This intriguing bag began with the Metis in Canada, and its popularity grew with those who came in contact with it. The bag was adopted from tribe to tribe, all the way to the east and west coasts. Mid-continent knew it as the Fire Bag, and because of its two set of four legs, amongst the Tlingit it was called Octopus Bag and amongst the Iroquois it was a Spider Bag. With the Tlingit it was traditionally worn only by a Chief or prestigious speaker, but now it's worn by dancers, men and women.
|Alaskan Wildflowers bag. My very first, and the only one fully completed so far.|
The thing about them though, is it's very hard to find anyone who makes them. Also, you just don't see them outside Alaska. I learned how to make them by examining museum photos online, and also guesstimating their size by those worn by dancers in other photos. Since I began showing them at Native shows, I have since learned my interpretation is pretty darned close to those worn and used by tribal members back in Alaska.
|Raven-Steals-The-Sun bag. The bright colors and contrast were great fun.|
The first one I made was given to a dear Native friend upon her retirement. I have since built two others in a contemporary Native style, both still need their shoulder straps. The fourth one recently completed (also still needing its shoulder strap) was a PNW/Celtic blend... the bag design is unmistakenly PNW, but the beaded decoration is very Scots-Celtic. I really need to get better at knotwork, but I'm happy with the way the large and detailed thistle came out.
|Hummingbird bag. You can see I'm getting more detailed!|
Since playing with Octopus Bags, and also doing bead work on a hand-sewn Button Blanket (also traditional PNW Native regalia), I've ventured off into other hand-sewn items. But I'll go further into that in a later post. ;-)
|Celtic bag in progress. I ended up using nearly a whole hank of dark green beads for this thistle.|
|Working in the knots. Beads really do have a mind of their own!|