Cherokee Beadwork and Beading Patterns
The Ancient Art of Cherokee Beading
Arts and crafts have always been a part of Cherokee history. Arts that were practiced thousands of years ago have been preserved by many members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribe and are still practiced today, including pottery, basket-weaving, finger-weaving, carving, and beadwork. Beadwork done by the Cherokee is ornamental and colorful. Traditionally Cherokee beadworkers would use all natural materials to create beaded clothing and accessory designs. Dried berries, gray Indian corn, and the teeth, bones, and claws of wild animals are just some of the decorative materials used. According to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., “homemade needles carved from the straight bone of a deer’s leg located just above the hoof were used to pull thread made from the fibers of hemp.” Trade with coastal tribes also sometimes provided access to colorful sea shells as well.
Purchase Beautiful Cherokee Beadwork at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual
Visiting Cherokee, North Carolina, or nearby Asheville soon? Don’t miss your chance to visit the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual gallery in downtown Cherokee. Established in 1946, Qualla Arts and Crafts is the oldest Native American cooperative in the country and constantly strives to preserve, support, and promote local Cherokee artists and craftspeople. Visitors can see and buy handmade Cherokee beadwork, baskets, pottery, wood carvings, stonework, and more created by more than 250 local artists that are members. Modern beadwork is now often done with stainless steel needles, flax thread, and glass beads.
The Meaning of Cherokee Beading Patterns
Historically beadwork patterns created by the Cherokee have had a wide variety of tribal meanings. Sadly, many of the old, traditional beading patterns have been lost due to time and the many changes the Cherokee tribe has faced. Modern beadworkers now design their styles and patterns infused with their own personal meanings and symbols. Many of the patterns are also inspired by and created to reflect Cherokee stories, beliefs, principles, and community values.
See Cherokee Indian Beadwork in Action at the Oconaluftee Indian Village
If you want to do more than see the finished beading process, add a trip to the Oconaluftee Indian Village, and you will get to watch local artists in action. Cherokee women wear traditional clothing and work throughout the day on various items including scroll work and solid beadwork. Scroll work is typically sewn on the sides of men’s pants and on the hems of women’s skirts and dresses. Solid beadwork refers to the making of headbands, belts, necklaces, bracelets, and more. Cherokee beading is uniquely stitched for easy mending in the future, and it can often take days to complete one single item. To learn more about Cherokee beadwork and Oconaluftee Indian Village, watch this video.