Some Call it Art

At the National Museum of the American Indian, Karis Jackson (Crow/Hidatsa/Arikara) browses the collections as part of a Crow delegation for the Recovering Voices program. The pieces created by her ancestors come alive with color and designs. She studies the traditional ways of their work. Then it happens — her heart and soul are touched when she has a vision for her next piece.

Some call it art. Karis calls it a labor of love.

At 10 years old, Karis sat at the kitchen table with her grandmother, who cut baby moccasins from buckskin. Her grandmother let Karis pick out the beads she wanted, and then they worked side-by-side. Her grandmother would lean over and answer questions, give Karis instruction or a quiet, “Yes, you do it like that.” Her grandmother taught for hours. Not only beading, but life lessons through stories.

Her grandmother is the one Karis talks to each day for the guidance she needs in beading. Her grandmother cautions Karis not to overdo her designs, but she also gives Karis permission to follow her own inspiration.

Though Karis’ style is more contemporary, she puts things together in traditional ways. She brings her own artistry to it. Each piece is one of a kind.

Some call it art. Karis’ grandmother doesn’t call herself an artist.

Karis never considered herself an artist either, yet she’s learned through First Peoples Fund of the opportunity to provide financially for her family as her beadwork is recognized as art. At the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, two of her pieces took home first-place division awards.

Karis still beads for family, too. Her two young daughters dance, and she makes their regalia. Her oldest has expressed interest in beading. They might sit down this summer and work on something side-by-side.

Some call it art. Perhaps it can be called an art of love.