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NDNDREAMQUEEN: Art for the Powwow Trail and Beyond!

Posted By PowWows.com August 4th, 2015 Last Updated on: November 24th, 2019

Every powwow features beautiful beadwork!

From ornate moccasins to intricate yokes and barrettes, beading is a prominent part of regalia throughout Native America.  

One of the most sought after beaders is Jessi Coombs, known as NDNDREAMQUEEN!

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Interview by Dawn Karima, Native Culture Editor

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Q)  Spectacular beadwork! Please tell us your beading background?

A) Thank you Dawn. I am half Ojibwe and a quarter Kootenai and both of my tribes are very artistic, but I would have to say that my Ojibwe ancestors are a bit more known for their beading capabilities. Our bright and whimsical floral patterns are well known, and very distinguishable. If you were from another region, and saw a bandolier bag with vibrant flowers, you would know that the man carrying that bag was Ojibwe. Intricately beaded bags or regalia were also a status symbol, and the more heavily decorated a person was with beadwork, the more important the individual.

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Q) Hmmm….seems almost like a precursor of today's fantastically beaded powwow regalia! You see how detailed the beading is on some of our champions' outfits!!! Yet, I believe your work stands out due to the integrity you put into each piece. What are some of the lessons you have learned as you design and create?

A) I would have to say that the most significant lesson beading has taught me is patience. You have to be patient when you are beading, especially throughout the first few years of learning. Knots have almost a science of their own, and after a while even the knots become simpler to figure out… then easier to avoid altogether. Also integrity is something I have learned is important to a beader. These days so many are quick to learn beading in order to make a quick buck, but to me it has always been about honoring my ancestors and the craft first.

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Q) Yes. Honoring our ancestors and culture is a priceless part of powwow art! Do you have a place where we can enjoy you talent?

A) I have been selling on eBay for a few years now, so you can look me up and follow me there @http://www.ebay.com/usr/ndndreamqueen, or at my new artist's page on Face Book ‘Ndndreamqueen' (https://m.facebook.com/ndndreamqueen). I mostly make items on a whim, since I'm also a full time caretaker, but from time to time I open up the list, and I take on custom orders too.

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Q) You are so versatile, but is there a form of art you especially like to do?

A) If I had to pick only one thing as my ‘favorite' item to craft, it would have to be my ‘Ojibwe weave' dream catchers. The reason it is my favorite is because the web resembles a spider web, and the story behind this original dream catcher weave intrigues me and always has. The fact that the Ojibwe people were the originators of the dreamcatcher is one that I am proud of, and the legend is a story I will pass down to others until it is time for my daughters to do the same. This we do, so our traditions will never be forgotten.

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Q)Powerful! Legacy, history and talent, intertwined! How do the arts influence your life?

A) I have been into the arts all of my life, and the first time I ever beaded was on a loom that my adopted father bought me many years ago when I was only a small child. I received the loom, which was in a small box and also included a packet of instructions, then was let loose with the package, and that afternoon I taught myself (with the help of the instructions) how to loom bead. A few years later I started having drug and alcohol problems, so was sent to an all Native American youth treatment program in Spokane, WA where the elders there taught me to make dream catchers, and it was there that I discovered the true power of the dream catcher… Not just appreciated their beauty, but their effectiveness as well. To me dreamcatchers are a spiritual tool, and not just a craft.

I left that treatment center, but wouldn't calm my wild ways for many years to come, not until later when my first born came into my life. In fact, it was my daughter Issabella who inspired me to pick up where I left off, and suggested I selll my dream catchers on eBay, and that's exactly what I did. Within a few days I made my first online sale, and it was then that I discovered a part of myself re awakening, almost like half of me had been dormant, and not alive. It was like I was denying a part of me life by not creating. So once I started making things with my hands and experiencing how it felt to make others happy by only doing what I love, and what I do best, I knew I had found my path in life.

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Q) Wow! That is an incredible journey! Once you found your path, how did you stay on it?

A) After I started selling my dreams catchers online, I began branching out to other groups looking for ways to broaden my horizons and expand my knowledge of native crafts. I came upon a group of natives teaching each other native arts and crafts, and quickly started learning as much as I could from them. Within a few months, I even started teaching others what little I knew in return. It was, and still is a beautiful give give relationship we all have through our online group, and I have become close friends with most of the admins and many of its members. The creator of the group is a local woman who now calls me her niece, and I am forever grateful to her and her group of over 25,000 members for taking me in, and helping me along the way, especially since it can be hard for adoptees to find acceptance within our communities while reconciling with our biological families. I am truly blessed to have been accepted into, and be a part of such a wonderful community of artists. Long story short, I am what you consider to be self-taught, since I wasn't given the opportunity to learn directly from my mother or father (who I found out later, are both artists). I guess being an artist is my calling, and there is nothing else in life which could fulfill me in the way creating does.

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Q) I understand completely! Whenever I feel restless, I check myself…am I singing? Am I dancing? Am I creating? If not, I get back on the artistic path and then I feel much happier and more productive. So, what would you say to someone who needs to step onto the artist's path today?

A) I would tell them to get ready for a whole lot of trial and error, with a mixture of happiness and extreme frustration, but also with moments of pure pride. Those moments of pride and happiness are the ones we live for. Beading is not just a way to make money, it is a time honored tradition and skill, and like any other skill it requires time and effort effort effort. Did I mention that beading takes TIME? I'm pretty sure some people think it means an easy paycheck, but it is anything but EASY. With that being said, it is also something that can be fun, and rather meditative too.

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Q) Good words! Any advice for new beaders? Especially those connected to powwow highway?

A) If I were just starting out, I would stick to little projects first like earrings, rings, and necklaces. Then later on after a few years of practice and training, maybe try larger items like crowns, leggings, and other regalia. My advice is to never take on a paid job unless you have made that item before, and if you're a beginner to not sell your work at all. Since beadwork can be pricey, if you don't know how well your work will hold up at the pow wows, then it would be wrong to let a dancer go out, to only come back with one earring! Gift your first makes, that way if anything bites the dust and falls apart, no one will be out 50$, and looking for retribution. In these times our people are living with harsh stereotypes, and it is up to our generation to restore the honor which has been lost over the past century.

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Q) I love that wisdom! And the integrity in it! You mentioned the next generation?

A) Yes. It's important for me to pass down our traditions so that we will be able to maintain the relationships we have with our ancestors and with Creator. Never do I feel more connected with my past relatives then when I'm beading, there's just a feeling I get and a calmness which comes to me each time I sit down and bead. It's as if all were tranquil and still with the world… until my three year old decides I've had enough of this peace, then were back to chaos, lol. But during that time of tranquility, I was able to escape, with visions for future projects running through my minds eye.

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Q) What a joy to hear that kind of vision! What else would you like to share with us?

A) Thank you Dawn. I would like to think that I'm good at many other mediums, such as painting and drawing. Lately, I have branched into pyrography, and am doing a bit of wood painting, wire work and leather work too. I don't like to limit myself artistically, or in any other fashion, so I plan on continuing my expansion of knowledge, until I am no longer able to learn new things!

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Home » Native American Articles » Interviews » NDNDREAMQUEEN: Art for the Powwow Trail and Beyond!


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Margariet (Flynwmn)

Love the art work.. Where can I contact you to possibly purchase someting…

marsha mills

you do such beautiful and spiritual work! i am grateful that you chose to share it with us here on Facebook! thank you

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