September 18, 2012

Interview with Ann-erika White Bird

Ann-erika White Bird is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. She began her beading career thirteen years ago, creating moccasins for her relatives. She is also a rising star in the beadwork scene.

Below is an interview with her that gives a little bit of some cool background info on what she does, what inspires her, and what's important to her.

BB: How would you describe your work?
AWB: I would describe my work as traditional Lakota art with contemporary flair as I use contemporary elements. Beads have replaced traditional quill work in the art that I create. I use buckskin almost exclusively but I utilize not only beads but other modern items such as brass and steel buttons, sterling silver stamped buttons and whatever else appeals to me in creating my piece.

In this modern world we have access to getting products direct from the source, whether it's pearls or abalone shell. I appreciate both the spirit of our Lakota artwork that originated with our Peoples and the accessibility of beautiful elements from nature not traditional to my region.

BB: What or who is your inspiration?
AWB: I am inspired to create from the things I need in my own life, whether it's to create a fancy shawl dress for my daughter or bead a purse for a invite-only gala. I like to see Native American women be able to represent where they come from simply by what they have on, especially in an urban setting. In blending in there can be a disconnect in who we are as a proud people and how non-Indians perceive us to be in the city. Wearing modern day clothing and pairing it with elements of the traditional shows a connection to the people, the artist and the design.

When I create a piece I am influenced by the physical environment around me. The colors of the seasons, my thoughts, the people I interact with all influence my art. Art, like culture, doesn't follow lines but has movement and life. When I'm asked to create custom pieces I ask questions about the person. I find out where that person has been, where connections have been made, what colors to present and then I create a pattern that reflects both that person's life and my own direction as the artist.

BB: What is the most important thing to you about being Native American?
AWB: The most important thing to me as a Lakota is to know where I come from. The land, this Indian Land, always remembers and speaks her voice whether on the open prairie or rumbling under pavement and concrete. We may live in houses instead of teepees, we may wear modern day clothing, but who we are as a People demands that we know our connectedness to our ancestors and our land.

Click here to see more of White Bird's work.