Sunday, October 11, 2015


This week our exploration of Native Americans continues at the private small group art class I am teaching in Scarsdale, NY. The artifacts I display at each class - pouch, moccasins, and necklace - all feature intricate beading with brightly colored beads. They are real life examples of objects that the Native Americans used in their everyday life. The artifacts also highlight how important beading was to the Native Americans as well as how good they were at beading. Native Americans used a variety of materials for beads like: shells, coral, wood, stones, metal and animal bones, and teeth. Beads played an important role in the Native American culture. For example, they were used during ceremonies, to mark milestones like a wedding and for currency.

Natural wooden beads and shells were used for this beading project. Pipe Cleaners replaced cord because thy are easier to push through the bead's small holes. Pipe Cleaners also can be made longer by attaching an additional Pipe Cleaner as well as easily twist close. Native Americans used shells as beads and possibly collected them nearby along the Bronx River. To give the girls a more authentic experience I told them to imagine they were a Native American girl who had to find shells on the Bronx River. (Prior to the start of class I had scattered a few shells outside so the girls could collect them.) Instead of going to the Bronx River I led the girls outside to search for shells. Everyone found a few shells and brought them back to the work table. Once the girls were settled in their seats I gave out a handful of the wooden beads for the girls to color with markers. 

I observed some girls using more than one color marker on a bead. I also noticed that they were coloring the natural shells. I would have preferred they kept the shells natural but this was their project and it is important to support children's creative decisions. The girls spent the entire class time beading. A few made two projects - a necklace and a bracelet. A steady stream of chatter persisted throughout the class. The girls had fun talking about their beads and shells. I sent everyone home with a quart size bag filled with extra beads, shells and Pipe Cleaners.