I did it. Since late 2016, I beaded 100 pairs of hard bottom slippers/moccasins. It has been a great learning experience, healing, connection to culture, and more. I’ve written about it a few times, but wanted to mark this occasion with a few lessons I’ve learned along the way and some interesting places it has led me to.
Here are some slippers I’ve made:
It’s rewarding to work on beadwork, giving them to people and to teach people how to bead/sew. I love giving the slippers and teaching others. It almost feels better giving rather than receiving. I’m sharing a gift learned from my grandma, mom and aunties.
Over the past few months, people have mentioned how they learned a certain beading or sewing technique by watching my beading tutorial videos (playlist below). A lot of people may not have had an opportunity to learn when they were younger, or they are just getting interested in learning. It is great to be a resource to people.
Moccasins are the common name, but from where I’m from we call them slippers.
I appreciate a challenge of a new design requested, but I also love having free artistic reign on a design.
I’ve taught about five beading classes. It feels so good to teach someone learning for the first time. One Elder said she was scolded as a teenager by her mom when beading. As a result, she stopped beading. It touched my heart to share with her and give her the boost she needed to try again.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I keep going and keep learning. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m still learning. I appreciate being able to call upon my mom, Eleanor, or my aunt, Dorothy, with any questions. My aunt Dorothy gives advice, like using a glover size 10 needle for sewing on hide. That makes a big difference! I wish I used those from the beginning. The more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know. I look forward to the continued learning.
Beading is healing. It helps to do something with my hands if I’m not feeling well. It helps me to be grounded and centered. Everything else in my life may be chaotic, but I find peace and quiet in when I’m beading. I also feel connected to my culture and family.
Colors make a difference. I’m thankful for my daughter, Ermelina, for giving me advice on colors on most of my slippers. She has an eye for color, and that helps to make them stand out. Here’s a pair of slippers with blue colors, outlined by black and glow in the dark beads (at right).
Ergonomics is key. Using pliers helps save my wrist, fingers and hands from being poked or repetition injuries. Working Hands hand cream repairs my dry and cracked fingers.
Beading hacks have helped carve down my beading and sewing time. On average, it takes about 6-10 hours for each pair of slippers. I must have spent about 800 hours beading and sewing over the past three years.
One of my favorite places to bead is near the Koyukuk River. I also enjoy beading with family and friends.
I’ve started collecting beads (hoarding)! LOL!
When I’m beading, I watch movies and TV shows, listen to audio books, listen to music playlists on my phone and on YouTube. I also watch YouTube and Facebook videos. I contemplate the day and think about life.
I enjoy beading humor, and have collected and reshared many memes. 🙂
I enjoy and appreciate the indigenous beading community. I am thankful to host @IndigenousBeads on Twitter occasionally. It’s great to share techniques, talk shop and connect with others. They are also a wealth of information.
I am grateful to family and friends who support my beading addiction in one way or another. I give mad props to the pro beaders who are skilled master artists. There are too many amazing artists to name, but I love following and supporting other indigenous beaders! I also want to give a shout out to the artists who use all traditional materials when making slippers.
- “When Gonzalez beads, she feels connection to her grandmother, who taught her how to bead. It was a gift that her grandmother gave her — which inspires Gonzalez to pay it forward. She calls it ‘beading bliss’.” Tune into a story by CBC Radio’s Unreserved show.
- “I love the healing nature of beading. It connects me to my family, ancestors and culture.” Read Kindred Post’s Artist of the Week feature.
- Making Beaded Slippers on the Athabascan Woman Blog.
- How to Bead Moose Skin Slippers Tops on the Athabascan Woman Blog.
- I share a lot of my process and beadwork on Instagram: @ayatlin. I also share some of my other kinds of beadwork.
- Beaded graduation cap for my daughter’s graduation on Indian Country Today
- Indie Alaska by Alaska Public Media: Beaded flowers and birds are a cultural connection for this Athabascan artist (video below)
Enaa baasee’ for reading about my beading journey!