Sokaogon Chippewa Community News
Indigenous Beadwork Flourishes on Instagram
Last year, after the museum that Tayler Gutierrez worked at in Salt Lake City closed temporarily because of the coronavirus, she turned to her beadwork.
A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Ms. Gutierrez, 24, had been practicing beadwork for years after learning from a mentor, the Diné poet Tacey Atsitty, and she already had a modest following on her Instagram page, where she posted her custom hat brims, earrings and leather pouches.
But when the museum reopened in May, Ms. Gutierrez decided to take a much bigger leap: She put in her resignation notice and committed full-time to her craft.
In July, she dropped her first collection of beadwork on Instagram; it included a set of earrings layered with two-tiers of dentalium shells and Swarovski crystals, and another pair with blooming flowers stitched with beads onto moose hide.
She teased the thirty pieces in the collection with photos on Instagram before she made them available for sale, but with relatively few followers she wasn’t expecting many people to buy.
Instead, everything sold in five minutes.
Ms. Gutierrez was shocked but thrilled – especially after the months of labor and love she had put into the work. (It takes around eight hours to make one pair of floral beaded earrings.) “Beadwork is definitely a very time-consuming process, which I think is one of the most beautiful things about it,” Ms. Gutierrez said in a Zoom call. “It’s definitely slow, slow fashion.”
Ms. Gutierrez just started her business Kamama Beadwork last year, but she is one of many Indigenous beadwork artists on Instagram who have seen a spike in followers and sales that far outpaces their available stock.
Partially, that’s because with craft fairs, powwows and art markets shuttered, many vendors and buyers are relying more heavily on the internet. The most common avenues are through social media – particularly Instagram – or e-commerce websites like From the People, which launched in May as an online market space for Indigenous artists.
Sales have been spurred by a national dialogue around racial injustice that has led to increased efforts to support Black and Indigenous artists and businesses.