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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 26, 2002 - Issue 54


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Beading Brings Peace, Relaxation


Beading SuppliesBill Grass held the turquoise and blue keychain close to his face Saturday morning, making sure the bead he was securing settled in exactly the right place.

"Success - I think," he said.

The keychain is Grass' first beadwork project in a class taught by Sandra Pallie at the Cherokee Heritage Center. He plans to keep his day job as a plumber, but hopes beadworking will become a hobby he can enjoy in his spare time.

Pallie said beadwork can become almost hypnotizing. Sometimes when she's working on a project, she looks up at the clock and is surprised how much time has gone by.

"Don't sit for hours," she advised her students. "Set a time and get up and walk around. Get a drink of water, take a stroll outside, listen to the birds."

Student Nancy Dyson, who had been practicing in the week since the first class and had her keychain nearly completed, agreed it's a good pastime.

"It's very relaxing to me because you're concentrating on some little beads and not all the problems in the world," she said.

The students chose the colors and patterns for their keychains, and Pallie taught them the basics. As they progressed, she inspected their work periodically and helped them correct any mistakes.

But they don't necessarily correct "spirit beads." Those are beads of the wrong color that somehow seem to work their way into most projects.

"We'll just call them spirit beads," Pallie told student Elise Loden, who thought she had a problem with her keychain. "Almost every project I make has a spirit bead or two. It'll work out and you'll hardly notice it. You probably picked up two beads rather than one, that's easy to do."

But Loden wanted to take out the spirit beads, and Pallie helped her to do so.

Loden said she enrolled in the class because she likes crafts. She had taken a basket class before and wanted to enhance her basket skills and learn beadwork.

Dyson decided to take the class because, "I just enjoy doing things with my hands. I like to stay busy."

She joined the class to learn how to make baskets, but started beadwork first and didn't want to put it down. She almost completed her keychain in the week between the first and second sessions.

"She called me at home and asked how to change threads. I talked her through changing threads. I thought I couldn't do it. But look at her now! They're almost perfectly straight," Pallie said, admiring the keychain.

The beginners made their share of mistakes, but Pallie, with encouragement, showed them how to correct the errors and do better as the work progressed.

"Don't worry about mistakes. We just fix them and that gives you another technique to learn," Pallie said.

"This lady is a wonderful teacher. She's very patient, very encouraging," Dyson said.

She brought a plastic flower pot, saying eventually she'd like to cover it with beadwork.
The youngest student was Sarah Hicks, who chose a flower pattern for her keychain.

"I already know how to make baskets," she said. "I do a lot of the traditional Cherokee culture things."

She's learned how to make dream catchers, finger weaving, pottery and blowguns. This class was her first attempt at beadwork.

"I just chose the colors I like, really bright colors," she said.

Grass chose his colors of turquoise, aquamarine and dark blue for a reason.

"I thought they would be really good. I'm a Navy guy. They remind me of the ocean," he said.
His keychain was in a lightning bolt pattern.

"Let me see your work," Pallie said. "Yes! Yes! Bill has just impressed me so much."

Trisha Eagle was the only basket maker Saturday morning. She began lining up soaked canes, forming them into the bottom and ribs of a small basket.

She made some baskets a long time ago, but has forgotten the technique. She likes to work in various art and craft forms.

"I'm here and I don't know what to do. That's how long it's been," she said before beginning the class. "I cut my nails for this class, and because I'm learning how to play guitar. This is my year of learning things."

Pallie showed her how to begin her basket. After rotating among other students, she was impressed with how much progress Eagle had made.

The teacher has been working at her crafts for years, first acquiring her knowledge from her grandmother, who was half Cherokee.

"I was 6 years old. I was sitting on my grandmother's knee and she used to bead with these tiny seed beads. She would choose her beads so carefully that she would have a pile of discards, and that's what I used," she said.

Although she has won awards for her work, she does it for the enjoyment. She does sell some pieces, but gives much of it away to friends and family.

Saturday's students aren't the only ones following in her footsteps. Her 13-year-old son won second place in beadwork at the county fair - with a theme that was definitely not traditional Cherokee.

"He designed his own Pokemon medicine bag. He designs a lot of his own patterns. He's really good," Pallie said, with the smile of a proud mother.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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