May 17th, 2015 Last Updated on: May 17th, 2015
Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
Breathtaking beadwork! Stunning stitching! Exciting designs! All in a day's work for a dynamic Dine' /Navajo artist who chatted with us at Powwows.com recently!
DK: Wow! Such special creations! Introduce yourself to us please?
GT: Ya'ateeh shik'ei doo shidine'e. Shi ei Gwendolyn Tsosie yinishye. Shi ei Totsohnii nishli, Tachii'nii bashichiin, kinyaa'aanii dashicheii, To dich'ii'nii dashinali. Akot'eego dine asdzaan nishli, Lok'aah niteel dee'naasha. Ahe'hee.
GT: Hello my friend and my people. My name I Gwendolyn Tsosie. I'm the Big Water Clan, born for the Red Running into the Water Clan, my maternal clan is the Towering House Clan, and my paternal clan is the Bitter Water Clan.In this way, I am a Navajo woman. I reside at Ganado (Wide Patch of Reed), Arizona. Thank you! I am Grateful!
DK: Beading is a BIG part of life on the powwow highway! How did you get started?
GT: It wasn't too long ago when I first started beading. Coming from a family who didn't know much about beading, I remember growing up loving beadwork and it making me wonder how a person could create such beautiful artwork. As time passed, with my life changing so drastically moving from my childhood town, Ganado, to Dickinson, North Dakota in 2010, it was just my mother and I at the time, knowing nobody in Dickinson except my mother's boss. At the start of the oil boom, I was the only enrolled Navajo at the high school. Throughout the school session, from this I became very lonely and left out, leading me to miss Arizona more. However, it wasn't long until my mother and I drove to the nearest Native American reservation in New Town, ND. It was here where my beading ambition was sparked. The powwows were just starting to begin. So I begged my mother to take me to at least one powwow and we ended up coming up with an agreement. The first powwow I attend at New Town was the summer of 2013, it was then I purchased my first pair of beaded earrings, which were Hello Kitty.
DK: I love Hello Kitty! It's a dream of mine to have an all Hello Kitty regalia for powwow dancing someday! I'm Panther Clan, so my Hello Kitty collection is kind of an inside joke! So how did you decide that you wanted to make your own?
GT:From this purchase, I examined closely every part of the beadwork, looking for clues on how to bead. I then started researching on the internet and Sally Dosela popped up with a tutorial.
From the tutorial by Dosela, it made me anxious to make my first pair of beaded earrings. At the time, my friends and family had no beading experience, so I had no idea where to get my beading supplies. The only place I could think of was Walmart. The beads were so bad and misshaped, but I had no choice, so I practiced with them. It wasn't until my next trip to the powwow when I bought better supplies. From this, I had to better myself to make my first pair that I shared on my Facebook. From one picture, I had family and friends requesting a pair and started pushing myself to succeed in my long term goal.
DK: That's super impressive! Self-taught and so creative!
GT:As a beginner of two years of beading experience, I don't really have a favorite style. I am more of an optimistic beader, one style isn't enough. I'm driven to learn new styles and techniques. As of inventing designs, I become inspired by other people's designs as well as beautiful things in life for an example, the sunset for color combination or beautiful animals like hummingbirds for designs.
DK: The results are fantastic! I know you're inspired by nature but you seem to have a lot of natural talent! Are you inspired by powwows, ceremonies or other cultural events?
GT: Enrolled with a tribe that is down south, not many powwows are held, however, Native American Church is. Many of the instruments used in NAC are beaded using peyote stitch. With that in mind, I feel beading connects me with that cultural and traditions. Allowing me to express my creative designs through beading. With limited bead workers, I feel that my talent has made me more valuable and knowledgeable enabling me to teach my family and friends. As a young Native artist, I believe bead work is a way to show your talent as well as a way to pass knowledge to the new younger generations to keep the tradition alive.
DK: That is a beautiful way to imagine it and to use your gifts! What are some of the skills you learn and hone through your beadwork?
GT:Passion, patience, and grace are what I believe the three important quality a beader needs. Without passion projects would be left undone, without patience the beadwork in itself would be messy and unkempt, without grace other people's beadwork would go unappreciated. From the years of observation, I've seen so many beadworkers influenced by others to execute a unique design of their own. To make my beadwork mine, I've taken so much time to make sure the quality is beyond what I expect. I make sure that the overall presentation is not grimy. I would also use some design from my tribe's culture that I would include within my beadwork, such as the design of a Navajo wedding basket.
DK: Such marvelous insights! No wonder your work is so pretty! Such a lovely perspective! Where can we learn more about you and your art? Thank you so much for motivating us!
GT: Thank you as well Dr. Dawn Karima. It was a pleasure talking to you and having you interview me. I have a Facebook account set up under my name, Gwendolyn Ts'osi, where you can find me to see my past and future beadwork just send me a friend request, I would be more than happy to take orders. Thank you again.
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