I can't draw. Just can't. I tried keeping a drawing journal for a time in art school as an assignment. Even the teacher admitted that although I did the assignment it probably hadn't done me any good. I can weave images and I can bead them. Lately beading is more my focus. I like the smallness of the result. For awhile in grad school I wove a blanket a week. All well and good, but I find these small objects more personal, more intimate. My beading is either worn on the body or requires touch. I know that in art circles a focus on an object rather than an image is out of favor, which is likely why I don't bring my work to art circles very often. I've always found that I'm happier making things that require few tools. In the case of my beading: thread, needle, the beads themselves. That direct contact makes me happy. Single element constructions seem to satisfy me more, create a better dialog with the materials. Recently I'm working on a series dedicated to sacred foods. I've also had a few interesting commissions. I hope you enjoy exploring here. We will add images as they become available.
Congratulations to our winning art entry for our RTG 25 conference "Warrior Trout" and artist Kim Shuck. Warrior Trout is 9Ē by 2.5Ē and created with 15/0 glass seed beads on brain tanned hide.
"I was thinking about how brave, how focused fish are when they go upstream, what a great image that is for water protection," Shuck said when asked about the piece. More from Kim Shuck about her art work and its connections to water protection will be featured on the website later this month.
These cards are (very high quality) photographs of four pieces of beadwork by Cherokee artist, Kimberly Shuck. Clicking each of the two photos will allow the viewer will bring up a more detailed copy of the photo. On the reverse, note the poetry. Contact Kimberly for purchase instructions. Thanks for viewing.
This is the first of the sacred food series. There is a wonderful traditional Tsalagi story about the origin of these berries. The Thunder Boys created them to lure a wife back to her husband, but she had to eat the correct one for the lure to work. I love the idea of these berries being an edible mash note from the abandoned husband to his exasperated wife. I'm such a strawberry junkie it probably would have worked on me.
This bag was made as a donation for Viva UK. It is entirely vegan: psuede, polyfiliment nylon... even the hair pipes are wood, not bone or horn. This piece is a puzzle pouch, it has a "hidden" compartment. The image on the bag, a bit of pine, comes from the old Tsalagi story of how medicine came to be. All of the people got together (the animals, birds, insects and plants) to discuss the various transgressions of the human people. Various beings proposed illnesses to punish humans. The pine tree and the sunflower spoke for the humans, saying that they could be taught and that therefore there should be cures for the illnesses that all of the other people were proposing.
Viva UK does many things, one of which is educating people about battery farming. No part of my contract with the world around me includes food via torture. Be aware of what you eat.
Here is another bag in progress... when I finished the fish I thought 'eek, set the bar a bit high'. This is particularly true as mammals are far more difficult to make compellingly graphic than birds or fish. Fur is a pain. Not that I love pine martens any less...
I start thinking of these things in association with the music/movie/conversation I was having when I beaded them. The fish was mostly beaded while listening to an Attenborough animal documentary. The crane was fueled by Cream and Dire Straits played at (probably excessive) volume, the marten was done while listening to a version of a Sherlock Holmes puzzle. Can you see five different white/grey-white shades in that marten...?
There are both benefits and drawbacks to being the relative of the artist. Because I'm going to have to keep looking at the work it's usually more neurotic than otherwise. Because it's more involved... it takes longer. This piece is for my oldest. He used to work at the California Academy of Sciences and developed a relationship with a gator called Boot. I've lost it among other work... twice. I've thought I was finished with it... four times. It's looking done these days but, as always, it's difficult to tell.
I don't actually know why I started this piece. I finished it as a gift for the 1000 Hummingbirds organization. Look them up, they are inspirational and I'm happy to contribute to them.
Well... there are a few folk who follow my work who will be waiting for a rant about those who believe that we should only ever copy work that has already been done. I'm not that kind of bead artist (the advanced art degree may have been an early clue). This bag is in honor of those beings that have been impacted by the BP Oil Spill (Hunh? Oh right! That's over isn't it?). So there are a shrimp, a sponge, the shell of a sea turtle and an array of jelly fish on this bag. Clearly these are not the only beasts impacted by the spill. They are part of a distinct food chain and that's why I've used them.
Making bandoliers... first impressions: not excited about edging things in ribbon, not delerious about beading onto wool cloth, generally cranky about the way the bag and bandolier are historically attached... and I've got ideas for about three more of the things. Clearly I need to be prevented from continuing down this slope. Grin.
The bag itself is going to be given to the winner of a contest at the Tulsa Two-Spirit Gathering this year.
This is a piece made for the Wildwood Trust in Kent where they are, among other things, breeding voles and taking care of woodland buffalo and some amazing early versions of horses. Great folk. If you are in Kent go visit their park near Herne. If you are not in Kent go see the website.
The living gentleman in black and white is my muse for this piece. His name is Medium Boar and he is a delight who is surrounded by both fur and skin people he respects and who respect him. I enjoyed my visit very much.
A commissioned piece that was somehow overwhelmingly difficult for me to release. I didn't want to own it, I didn't want to continue to work on it, but somehow making it go away was just beyond me for a time.
Anyhow, it was worked from a photo and I really enjoyed creating texture by putting beads closer together than I would generally do. The substrate is a very soft commercial deer hide so beading close caused some very floral puckering.
Glyphs from near the 'Donner Pass', Washo territory. This was commissioned for a Washo leader. Bit of an exercise in texture that can't really be appreciated in a photo.
Because it's a healing plant and because someone wanted one. I'm dazed by the speed that some of these things are coming with... I don't know it's like automatic writing sometimes I don't remember doing all of it, is that exhaustion? Mania?
Those Cahokia eyes keep getting to me. I don't know what to say about this at all unless that it's a gift to a sundancer. I need a nap before my work gets any more disturbing... although I have a great idea for a piece..
More work for my son. This one feels different to me somehow and was certainly different to make. Some baby gators have dramatic coloring, as this one does. I intend to post individual parts of my boy's regalia and then, if he will let me, him in his outfit.
Another feather locket, this one for Indian canyon. I'm trying to get the feathers both lighter and more stylized. I'm not entirely sure if it's working yet. The contrasting bead sizes are certainly making me happy.
The Norse used to use corvids for navigation. This guy has a compass for an eye, at least the one we can see... Another fun chest piece.
These were made as a commission from a well known Cherokee writer and publisher. They are just over an inch in length and are beaded with size 15 beads. They were not work I undertook lightly or without being informed. Most Native people and educated non-Natives alike believe that owls are always a symbol of evil and death in Native communities. This is not always true. In Cherokee owls are problematic, powerful and they have their gifts to offer. I would not make another pair of these, but they came out so well I thought I'd share (erm... show off). With everything that has been happening in my personal life lately, and there has been quite a lot happening, my work is evolving in ways I didn't predict. These little guys are an example of that.
Ok... so I was in a butterfly mood. Why not? My youngest has always loved them. This pin was a gift for someone who is engaged in creating transformation. It seems appropriate.
Hummingbirds... mostly just had a funny thought about using a head pin for the beak. These were trickier than the owls, as it would have been a bit difficult to get the wings in 'flying' position and hummingbirds are not known for stasis... This particular color scheme is from a bird from the East Coast. I liked the black and red vibe. Anyway... was for a friend's mum. Ok... a bit staged for the photo, but I like it... more active.
I've been playing with these a bit for about, oh, six months. They open and there is a pocket inside for whatever thing: a small braid of sweetgrass, a chunk of angelica root or what pleases the owner. They can be worn on any chain or string of beads. Lockets have been magical for me since I was a small child. It's making me happy to be beading some. This particular locket is a donation for the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland, CA. It's maybe 2-1/2 inches on the long side, the beads are the standard 11/0 glass, and the base is smoked deerhide. I understand that it will be part of an auction at the end of September 2010. The Intertribal Friendship House has provided incalculable services to the Native communities of the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and I am honored to contribute in this small way.
So... monarch butterflies are almost a cliche in beading as are eagle feathers and snakes... I've done all three so there you are. This little item I made for myself and I'm well pleased. In between pieces that have taken me seven months to finish, four months to get one bit finished, and other varying times and pieces this was by way of an amuse bouche. Sometimes it's important to hit a visual and creative reset button and you gotta love orange and black in the fall. We also live close enough to where these guys migrate to go see them in their thousands pretending to be leaves, a thing my children and my friend Greg and I have tried to do every year in October. The beads are size 15/0 and now I'm ready to get back to some heavier work.
It may be insufficient to say that this piece is inspired by work from Cahokia... erm... I wanted this for me so I made it. Cahokia and mound culture generally are quite the touchstone for South Eastern people these days. As we all do the work of moving forward in our cultures it's useful to cast an eye back. Rich material culture eh? Just you wait for the frogs...
A neckpiece made for a friend to wear with her regalia. For those who always ask: no not traditional in any special particular. I did have the shape of the old metal gorgets in mind, partly because of the shape of the bird, but otherwise just a thing Iíve made. I do seem to know rather more than the usual number of bird affiliated folk. Backlit sparrows have this very blue cast to their underwing feathers and many of their primaries go transparent. It was an interesting challenge to capture some of that. Iím not sure if I managed, the piece is too newly finished for me to see it properly.
A retirement gift for an amazing friend and curator. They gave me every latitude in design and so I chose some of the old mound designs that are so resonant for me at this moment. With every hope for her success...
Every so often I try to go back to very core images in my work. The petroglyphs along the Hiwassee are the closest thing there is to the seeds of culture. Very pared down and beautiful. They often occur right next to mortar holes or nearby them. Food and story eh?
I go through phases where certain images haunt me a bit. I donít mean that in a spooky Scooby Doo sort of way, or a piper on the battlements sort of way; but they keep presenting themselves in my mindís eye and I have to deal with them before I stop seeing them. Iím having that experience with these eastern petroglyphs. I would call them a thing from my dadís culture but all of the stories I know about them suggest that they predate our presence in old Cherokee. They do have many stories associated with them and thatís probably part of my current interest. At any rate, salmon pink and with what my friends are calling a sand hapenny fossil. These glyphs are so pared down they could be modern symbols of currency or an indication that you should key your guided audio tour or something...
These images are all taken from petroglyphs from Track Rock. They are all thought to be astronomical in nature.
So... another red animal. There are an array of sites, books, stories about Cherokee color theory. Some of these are good, some indifferent and some so very far off that they provide hours of amusement. Iím in no position to lecture on this subject. I will say that in a fair few old Cherokee love poems (for lack of a better designation, they have been called spells, incantations, formulae etc. but as a poet I like Ďpoemsí) the image of a red panther is evoked. This boy here is a red panther. I suspect that there will be more red animals coming up, judging from my current poem output. Both this panther and the rattle frog have their roots in my current hunt through images of effigy pipes from the Ohio River mounds. The frog has more detail, but he is also more than twice the size of this guy.
This is an image of Underwater Panther, an old mythic being found in stories and as the subject of imagery in Cahokia and other archeological sites.
A raven skull... for a friend who is a pagan. This piece bothered me until I completed it. It looks lovely on her.
An image taken and modified from an old fetish pipe. This is actually the color scheme of a real frog. Nature is a continual wonder.
The poisonous juvenile version of of the Eastern Newt. Do look them up, this is actually their color.
For years I've intended to forge a snake... and then I wanted the colors a bit brighter and toyed with maybe pink or baby blue. We'll call this a dream rattler, not quite a portrait but a riff eh? This was another piece for Michael Horse... he seemed pleased.
I was asked to create this to replace another piece in an ongoing show on Race (see the exhibits page for information on the itinerary for this show). The show was put together by the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. I enjoyed working with the curatorial staff on this piece, although I told them from the outset that I might not be the best person to bead something patriotic. Nevertheless, I found a place in myself to work from, mostly centered in the military service of my family, really since there has been a United States. The words on the back are a reworking of a traditional Tsalagi prayer for success in battle. I would like to say here that if any of you get a chance to explore the museum you should. It's wonderful and there are some world class folk working there.
This is another commission piece for the Science Museum of Minnesota. There is a second RACE show being created to start touring in January. The spider is a riff on old water spider images. The stars are, once again, not entirely symmetrical. For years of my life as a beader I have avoided doing red-white-blue work. Interesting that in the last three big pieces I've done, that was the mandated color scheme. I'm sure that some traditional philosophy has something to say about that.
These were made for my brother/friend. They are a map, a prayer, a celebration of his name. Here he is wearing them for a performance.
These I made for myself. City Skin that I am, they seem appropriate and support my sarcastic sense of humor.
South Eastern puckertoe dance shoes. They have a few different allusions to alligators because they were for my son.
I do so much 'serious' beadwork that it was a pleasure to just engage in a bit of whimsey. My friend Michael is putting together a mini museum and this is my contribution. The boots are about 1-1/4 " tall, about half an inch across the widest part of the sole. My urge towards play suggests that I make a series of these in the style of various groups across the continent, demands on my time say something else... but they are kinda cool eh?
This is a slightly uncharacteristic piece for me. Usually even if someone wants a specific image they just tell me and I design and bead it. In June 2010 Michael Horse, painter, actor, musician etc, was my partner in a residency at the de Young museum in San Francisco. He wanted this. He gave me a drawing... told me where the horses were to go and what colors... In most ways this is his work... aside from the hours of actually making the piece, that is. Looks pretty good I think. Not sure I would work with anyone else this way but... he's one of a kind.
For more information about Michael's work plug his name into youtube.com and hear him talk about it himself.
What to say beyond the bit of writing I did? The White House wants it clear that using my ornament was not approval of me or my work. I would say for those who don't choose to read my piece about the ornament that making it was not approval of the White House either. I was fairly pleased with the result. It went on the White House tree in the last year of George W. Bush's residence there.
Just as self-explanatory. These things never cease to inspire me, both geometrically and culturally. I don't mean the 'turtle island' thing either, I didn't hear about that until I went to University and met sufficient numbers of Natives from other cultures. Cherokee people, as most southeastern people, use turtle shells as leg rattles in dance. I find turtle shells comforting. I've been having a small crisis about using the actual shells for rattles these days. I'm thinking of making some beaded shakers, but I'm not yet sure. If I did them they'd need to be danced properly and I live in California. I suppose I could also just be showing off.
This piece was made for a well known Native poet and I was honored to do work for her.
I have no idea what I'm doing here. Fumbling around I expect. Lately I'm hunted by images from the mounds. For those who are unfamiliar with the complex mound systems, Cahokia and the like, look them up. There is plenty of material online to browse through and some of it is even respectful. I myself have no idea what's up with my current obsession. All I can say about this piece and a few others to come is that I simply must make them. We'll see what happens when my residency at the de Young starts (see June 2010 in events).
There is a bit of construction happening beyond here. Please check back later.
All content (text and graphics) on this site are copyright © by Kim Shuck. Kim Shuck should be contacted prior to any use of material from this site. If any question arises about the use items from this site, contact Kim Shuck for permission.