Thought I’d share these “vintage” photos from vending days gone by: The first photo is from the Chumash Pow Wow in Ojai, CA, circa 1994. We’d just finished breaking down our vendor booth. By that stage in my life, I’d already been vending at art shows and festivals for about 7 years!
The woman on the left was a sweet friend from England, who used to import my work so that she could sell it in her stall at the Glastonbury Festival! (Does that event still exist?). The babe in my arms is now 26 years old, and in grad school.
The second photo shows some beaded leather bags that I made around that same era. As you can see, my style has changed a bit in the 25 yrs since these pictures were taken. Some things remain constant: my material choices (beads, leather, natural gemstones), a love of color and natural themes, skilled craftsmanship, and passion for my work and the people who inspire me to create.
This path has not always been easy, but I love it all the same. I’m grateful for all the lessons behind me, and hopeful for many years ahead. Some of you have been with me through this whole journey (thank you, I love you!) and some are just joining now (thanks, you rock!).
Please know that I genuinely appreciate every bit of support and encouragement along the way. May it come back to you tenfold ❤
Found this little mini-mask kicking around the studio the other day… it’s an oldie, probably circa 1997 or ’98. I used to offer these as brooches and pendants. Haven’t made one in forever and a day, and didn’t think I had any left!
I’m a bit hesitant to post this, simply because my creative work has been moving so slowly of late. There’s a superstitious (?) side of me that fears that sharing this idea before it’s complete will somehow “jinx” it… but I’m pretty excited about it, so I’m choosing to let my enthusiasm outweigh my fear.
For some time now, I’ve been wanting to play with purse designs again. Those of you who have followed my work for a very long time will remember that I used to create a variety of purses and bags. In the late 90’s, the demand for my leather masks grew, and I sort of meandered away from making purses. Another big factor in this was the fact that all of my purse patterns (and several works in progress) were destroyed by water damage… or so I thought.
The other day, I was rummaging through an old box of beads that I’d packed up long ago. I thought I knew what was in there (and for the most part, I did) but there was a surprise! At the bottom of the box, I found 4 purses that had been cut out and partially sewn, as well as a folder full of my old patterns! I’m not sure how these pieces survived the flood, but I’m so glad they did.
The purses shown here are in various stages of completion. They were probably created some time between 1995 and 1997. There are two light brown cow hide purses (one small, one medium) as well as a medium sized black buckskin purse and a larger buffalo hide purse with cowskin lacing. All are entirely hand cut, sewn and braided. The one on top has holes punched for some leather braiding, which was going to outline a beaded mandala. Not sure if I still have that piece of beadwork, but I’ll probably create something similar for it.
These are quite a bit different than what I’d like to make today, but finding them seemed like a little sign from the universe that I should pursue the purse idea. I’m not sure how soon I’ll finish these, or when I’ll start introducing new designs… but I’ll definitely keep everyone posted as I roll them out!
Arthchain Day 1 – I was nominated to post an item of artwork a day for 5 days (and to nominate others…).
These are some of the oldest masks that I can find photos of (though they were made a few years into my mask making journey) and they’re quite different from what I’m doing now. They used a lot more of the intricate featherwork, and though none of these really show it, but I used to incorporate a lot of detailed beadwork and gemstones too. They were made while my family and I were doing the pow wow circuit, and each one told a story about the people and places we encountered along the way. These would have been mid 90’s – just as I was transitioning from wallhanging/art masks, to wearable art masks.
These sold works are archived here to illustrate the progression of my work over time. Those interested in custom work may find this collection especially helpful, as it provides a good sense of my style and abilities. Most of these pieces were unique or one of a kind, but sometimes I’m able to create something similar.
I began making masks around 1991. My early masks were decorative wall hangings with elaborate bead and featherwork designs. During this same time period, I also began working with garment leather to create bags and purses. After a few years, I realized that I could fuse these interests to create *wearable* masks using leather bases. These masks are from the mid 90’s, and they show that transition from decorative to wearable.
It’s challenging to find pictures of my earlier pieces, since we were on the road for several years and simply didn’t take many photos. Even the masks that I made later (say late 90’s/early 2000’s) are not very well documented. Somewhere around here, I have floppy discs full of images… but my current computer doesn’t even have a slot for floppies! Likewise, I have slides floating around that I used to use to jury in to art shows (that’s how we did it back in the day 😉 but I have no idea where. I’ll keep an eye out for those, and share them if they ever crop up. It’s been fun to look back and notice how my work has changed and evolved over time.
I was recently searching through some old files, and I came across this picture (to the left) of one of my imp masks. It may be my original prototype, which I created around 2001.
The reason it caught my attention is that I still
create this style of mask today. The picture at the right shows the current version. I’ve made some minor modifications to the original pattern, such as lengthening the tips and horns, and rounding out the cheek area at the bottom – but for the most part, the pattern is still the same. I think the biggest changes are in the intangible factors, like time and skill.
In the 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making this particular styleof mask, I’ve honed my skills and learned better techniques for shaping and coloring. In addition, I’ve had the benefit of a few mistakes along the way, which have taught me which paints and sealants to use. It may not have felt “beneficial” at the time, but the knowledge has really helped me to improve the quality of my work.
I still have much to learn, and I view my work as a constant process of experimentation and evolution … which includes plenty of mistakes. Still, it’s nice to be able to look back and realize that I’ve made a bit of progress along the way. Here’s hoping that my work will continue to improve and evolve over time.
. Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with a group of old deadhead friends that I used to be very close to. This community was colorful and eclectic, and I learned so much from them. Being a bunch of hippies they naturally loved beads, so I also learned a lot about beading. In fact, I would say that some of the best beadwork I’ve ever seen came out of the the deadhead parking lot scene.
My fascination with cabochon beading – and also my love for antique microbeads – probably began during my deadhead years. I’d been doing beadwork, and even collecting beads before I got into the Grateful Dead, but those years really fueled my interest. I was exposed to the work of talented bead artists like Nome May, and of course, selling my work was a great way to support my gypsy lifestyle.
A few of my friends still have some of the pieces that I used to sell to fund my travels. I was delighted when they shared pictures of these older pieces with me. This one belongs to my beautiful friend Janna, who grew up to be an inspiring yoga teacher. It was made in 1989, and it features a large chrysacolla cabochon with a small (I think) raw emerald cab below it. The blue-green stones are tourmaline, and the quartz crystal at the bottom used to be a much longer, crossed/double terminated point, but it broke at some point over the last 20 years.
This barrette belongs to another amazing old friend, Hollie Rose – Java Goddess and owner of Klekolo Coffee in Middletown, CT. It was made in 1988, and it features 3 teensy opal cabs and 1 aquamarine cab set with size 18/o vintage micro seed beads. The funny thing is – I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when I made this (In fact, I still have some of the beads from this dye lot!)
Seeing these pictures reminded me of just how long I’ve been creating beadwork. It’s interesting to me that even though I’ve learned many different techniques over the years, I am still drawn to the same types of materials, such as cabochons and vintage beads. This picture shows me doing beadwork when I was about 15. Back then, I might not have guessed that my love for beadwork would last a lifetime, or play such an important role in my life.
We recently cleaned out a storage unit that had been untouched for some time. I was psyched to find a box of beadwork that I thought had been lost in a move years prior!
I’m guessing this work is circa 1997-2001, and it’s in various stages of completion. There are some pieces I’d still like to finish … like these two necklaces in the upper right:
They’re from a “goddesses and angels” phase I went through. In 1999, a dear friend of mine died. I can’t help thinking that if she’d nurtured herself as much as she did everyone else, she might still be around. It became really important to me to remind my women friends that they’re amazing — divine, even — and to honor that. These necklaces (and brooches) were the result. It’s nearly 10 years later, and this sentiment still resonates with me.
Besides, they’re almost done! The bright blue one below is worked in microbeads (mostly 16/o to 18/o) and features firey opal and rainbow moonstone cabochons. I have her pictured above her big sister there for a sense of scale. All she needs now is some arms (or wings) and to have the neckline polished off:
Other pieces will probably remain unfinished, like the multitude of amulet bags. Below are just a few. Some are pretty cool — but it’s been more than a decade since my big amulet craze, and I’m still burnt out on making them!
I think the little dove amulet is the most recent work in this box. It was a sample for a pattern Julia created as a Bead Quilt fundraiser in 2002. At that point, the quilt kind of took over my creative/beady energy and I didn’t bead again for quite awhile.
This box runs the gambit from “wow, I need to explore that idea more!” to “OMG, what was I thinking?”. Some pieces will be finished, sold or gifted, while others will stay as they are. All of these pieces are special, they represent a piece of my past — of myself — that I thought I’d lost long ago!