July 17, 2013

Designer Profile | Samantha Hunter

I am proud to announce our newest member to the Beyond Buckskin Boutique roster, Samantha Hunter. She is San Carlos Apache and Hopi, and I first came across her cool powwow-inspired applique purses on Instagram.

Her company name is "Shih' Goh'Zhoo" and the word Goh'Zhoo is used in many Apache songs to represent peace, harmony, happiness, and love. About Goh'Zhoo, she says, "It's just the perfect feeling, anything and everything good." Click below to learn more about her work and what inspires her.

BB: Hi Samantha! I love your work - it is so fun and fashionable, yet has a clean and professional look to it. When and why did you start making jewelry and accessories?
SH: I started beading and sewing about 2000-2001. I always had an interest in arts/crafts, and when I was in high school, I worked a lot with painting and drawing. I was better at pencil and pen drawing rather than painting though. But in art class we had beading sessions about once every year and that's when I learned to do loom and peyote stitch beading. My older cousin also encouraged me to learn to do my own beading so I wouldn't have to rely on others to do it for me. Sewing came after.

I would watch my mom sew during late hours of the night and then one night I played with her sewing machine while she was out and made my own T-Dress, after that she turned her machine over to me and said that I would have to start doing my own sewing from then on, I think I was only 16 at the time. I have been sewing since, and throughout the years my sewing and designs progressed. I like the more contemporary look mixed with the traditional geometric designs. I do more beading than sewing but throughout the years I have created many things from buckskin dresses to simple earrings and jingle dresses to curtains.

BB: I adore your new collection of tote bags on the Boutique site. What is the general process you go through to create your work?
SH: I usually brainstorm for a bit and think of ideas when I'm doing the dishes or cooking. But most of the time, designs just flash in my brain, whether it's for my beadwork or my sewing. Those are usually my best pieces. For my bags, it's a long process because I never make only 1 or 2 bags at a time; I make at least 4. I draw each design out, then decided the fabric. Once that's decided, I'll choose the colors for each layer, then I trace each design onto the fabric that I chose for each layer, cut it out, peel it off the bonding and iron it onto the bag fabric, then sew it on. I complete this process for each bag, and each bag may have 9 layers of designs. So you can say that the kitchen floor is a mess after designs are cut out. Then when that's all done I make all the straps for the bags, then sew the lining for the bag, then the bag itself and then sew the bag/lining and strap together. I also work full time at the Detention Center on the reservation, have a husband and a baby to tend to, so this process sounds short, but its not.

BB: I like your color combinations and fabric choices. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
SH: My inspiration is my Apache culture. Everything I make I do with pride. I do a lot of research on our history. I am proud of who I am, who we are.

BB: Your work has such a great energy to it. What does Native fashion mean to you?
SH: It's inspiring; it is a way to break the barrier and show non-Indigenous people what ELSE we can do and also give the younger generation something to look up to and open their eyes to see what IS possible. For example, my favorite quote is "The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before" by Albert Einstein.

BB: Who are your favorite Native American designers or artists?
SH: Jamie Okuma is my favorite, not only does she have crazy mad beading skills but she also has the ability to create beautiful items for every day use. Very edgy and modern. Shayne Watson is another inspiration, he made me a pea coat and it's gorgeous, only someone with skill can have the "no fear" mentality to have the confidence to cut up Pendleton on the regular. Myself being a beader, my favorite artists are Jackie Bread, Rae Anne Simmons, Tiffany Paskemin, Tracy Taylor, Charlene and Rhonda Holy Bear, and Arlis Whiteman. The seamstress I also adore is Gina Redhouse.

BB: What is something that a lot of people don't know, but should know, about your tribe and home community?
SH: Like most reservations through out the country, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has a drug/alcohol/diabetes/violence and domestic violence epidemic, BUT we are a very proud people who still speak our language (although it is dying), still keep up with tradition and we have many artists here, myself included, that still create our traditional items such as buckskin dresses, moccasins, cradleboards, baskets, dolls, and jewelry. We still make a lot of our traditional dishes, using our resources here, and we are also known for the Sunrise dance, which is a young girl's coming of age ceremony. The reservation is located in Southeastern Arizona and is mostly desert land but we also have the mountain area north of us that meets the border of our sister tribe, the White Mountain Apache. I come from the Bylas district of the reservation, which is a small community. I'm proud to come from Bylas, it's one of those places that every time you go there, you see someone you know. One thing many people would know is that San Carlos was where Apache warrior Geronimo was sent to live for a time.

Click here to shop Samantha's collection on BBB.