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Sewing up tradition and passion

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By Donna Hales -- The Muskogee Phoenix

CHECOTAH, Okla. (AP) - Daneta Kauley slipped six orange glass beads at a time on her needle, weaving the thread in and out on an American Indian headdress.

''I outline what I'm going to do and go from there,'' she said. ''This one has to be done by tomorrow evening.'' Elizabeth Deerinwater was to debut the headdress, matching beaded arm medallions and other beadwork on a buckskin dress at a Copan pow wow.

Kauley, 34, had been working on Deerinwater's order every day for the last two weeks. She's been doing beadwork for 14 years.

''I bead every day, sometimes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,'' Kauley said. ''I get home [from work] at 2 a.m. and bead until 3:30 or 4 a.m.

''I love it.''

She has no set fee. Much depends on what a customer can afford to pay, she said. Prices also depend on what a person wants and how expensive the beads are.

Necklaces can go from $50 to $175. It takes her a week to make a crown. Fancy hair ties cost about $40 to $75, depending on the size. It takes two or three days to make them. Earrings and chokers often are part of the regalia. What is known as a drag, which runs down the front of the buckskin dress, ranges from $500 to $700.

If the dancer or princess supplied the beads, the beadwork itself can be fashioned from $900 to $1,200, Kauley said.

She usually gets a hefty down payment, and if someone doesn't pay: ''I repo - I walk up to them at a pow wow. They'll give it back or eventually pay for it because they know it will sell fast.''

One of her designs, worn by Keri Jhane Myers of Oklahoma City, is featured in ''Identity by Design'' in the Smithsonian. Kauley originally made the design for her sister. Myers didn't give Kauley credit for the design in the 2005 book, but did in a June 2005 article in The Oklahoman.

Kauley loves to make floral designs and roses. Her latest design is of a water bird.

''I think I got the gift from my uncle [J.T.],'' she said. ''Drawing a design just seems to come natural.''

She recalled her uncle worked fast. He would see an old leather coat in his closet, cut it up and make beaded bags, she said.

The one item she doesn't make is beaded moccasins.

''I haven't mastered the perfect fitting of the foot,'' she said.

She does take plain moccasins and put beadwork on them.

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She makes beaded rope for necklaces and purses.

The detail with which she colors in her designs is one of her drawing cards.

''They all want something eye-catching because they compete for a lot of money,'' Kauley said. ''They need to catch the judge's eye to go for the big money.''

A dancer can win $1,500 to $3,000 for first place in some pow wows, depending on which casino or tribe is having the big pow wow, Kauley said.

Kauley has to travel to Anadarko to find the color and quality of glass beads she likes to use in her designs.

Yellow or Cheyenne pink (a pinkish mauve) are her favorite base colors to work with, and what she calls pink grapefruit is not far behind.

She often pays $300 just for the beads to make one outfit.

''I have to make sure before I start a project that I have what I need. If you're using lime green and lacking one hank to finish something, they will absolutely not accept a lime green that is off-color.''

She couldn't help but smile when she visited a Web site of a national pow wow and saw seven sets of her beadwork there.

The beadwork isn't the only expense of a dancer's outfit. It can cost $500 just to have fringe made for a buckskin dress. The dress can cost $1,200 to $1,500 without beadwork.

Kauley, half Creek and half Kiowa, is a member of the Kiowa tribe. She said she was given a gift that she likes to share.

She said she doesn't try to protect her designs from being copied.

''I work in hearts, leaves, tipis, eagles - you can't patent those things - God made them,'' she said, smiling. ''I make hearts with swirls in the center. I'm flattered when someone copies me.''

Her 15-year-old daughter, Mary Lorraine, already is fashioning her own items.

''She's got that eye for clothes and design,'' Kauley said.

Sons Anthony, 6, and Gabe, 7, are interested in dancing.

She plans to take Gabe to a pow wow in Stroud soon. He plans to be a Chicken dancer and must wear bright colors. She plans to soon take off from sharing her gift with others for a year and share it with her family. Her father and Gabe will be the first recipients of her handiwork.