Raised beadwork artist Karen Ann Hoffman will reveal the secrets of her craft and explain its significance in her class, Iroquois Beading in Art and Culture at the School of the Arts at Rhinelander July 20 to 24.
“Iroquois raised beadwork is an art form of the eastern Great Lakes,” Hoffman said. “Its forms and designs reach back over 10,000 years.”
The Iroquois are a league of six Indian nations that originally inhabited the eastern Great Lakes. Their beadwork was first crafted with stones and shells, then with moose hair and hide, and now with glass beads and velvet. When the Oneida nation moved to Wisconsin in the 1820s, they brought the beadwork tradition with them. Hoffman is working to continue interest in Iroquois beadwork and has introduced raised beadwork after meeting masters of the craft in the 1990s.
“A dozen years ago, I learned Iroquois raised beadwork from the premier artisans of the style, Sam Thomas and Lorna Hill of Niagara Falls, Ontario,” she said. “At that time, no one in Wisconsin was doing this style of beadwork. It had been lost.
“Now, I feel I am in a position to accept my responsibility to fan the flickering flames of this beadwork style. I look forward to sharing some techniques, but even more to sharing the cultural underpinnings of this rare and beautiful beadwork art form.”
Iroquois Beading in Art and Culture is offered Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. All students will complete a medallion decorated with Iroquois raised beadwork, but Hoffman said there is much more to learn from this course.
“I want the students to develop an appreciation for Iroquois raised beadwork, and I want them to see this for the fine art that it really is,” she said.
Hoffman’s work is currently on display in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Indiana Children’s Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Museum.
Registration information for this and all School of the Arts at Rhinelander classes is available at soawisconsin.org.