Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) began working with beads as a child creating her own dance regalia for powwows near her home, on the La Jolla Luiseño Reservation.
In high school, Okuma made her first miniature jingle dress, which she placed on a doll figure, and thus, the Jamie Okuma we know today emerged.
Historical accuracy, exemplary workmanship, and keen attention to detail are the hallmarks of her dolls, which are also frequently referred to as ‘soft sculptures’ since the term ‘doll’ seems to diminish the aesthetic range of these creations.
Terminology aside, the magnificent small wonders that she creates replicate life in miniature.
Generally taking up to four months to complete a figure, Okuma focuses on the elaborate clothing and accessories that were the height of Native fashion in the late 19th and early 20th-century Plains and Plateau region. Each detail is in perfect miniature, from the tiny beaded bag to the sewn brass sequins.
A work by Okuma is much more than a traditional craft, but a piece of fine art for discriminating collectors.
At the age of 22, Okuma became the youngest artist in the history of Santa Fe Indian Market to win Best of Show, which would become the first of her four Best in Show awards: two from SWAIA and two from the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market.
Today, she sews, beads and carves her mixed-media mini-sculptures in her home studio near sacred Mount Palomar on the La Jolla Reservation in San Diego County.
Click here, here or here to read more about her work.
Stay tuned for future profiles on other small sculpture creators Joyce Growing Thunder and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, Emil Her Many Horses, Rhonda Holy Bear, and others.