SAND SPRINGS, Okla. – After combining her passions for jewelry and art, Cherokee Nation citizen Jae Anthony-Wilson taught herself how to bead in early 2020.
Her new talent gave her an outlet of self expression, as well as allowed her to connect with herself on a creative and spiritual level.
“Beadwork has always been something really special to me and a way that I express myself. I’ve always throughout my life expressed myself with my jewelry and the beadwork that I own. But I always wanted to learn and I’ve always been an artist,” she said.
With attending college, Anthony-Wilson said her creative outlets took a back seat, but that changed in 2020.
“I kind of got dragged away from my art … but during the pandemic, I just had time to slow down,” she said. “I think that we all kind of maybe went through some hard stuff alone. Although it was hard, it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with myself and reconnect with my art. I just started beading and I taught myself actually on YouTube from another Native artist.”
Her first pairs of earrings were a tribute to her sisters, of which she is the youngest of five. Anthony-Wilson said from there, her beading was showcased in an early 2020 art show and it “took off from there.”
“I created my first pairs off of my sisters in my family and did like color combinations on how I feel about them,” she said.
Anthony-Wilson describes her waterfall, or tassel, style of earrings as an “abstract, more modern” take on realistic imagery.
“A whole lot of the time it’s not just design and pattern. It’s more like I’m copying a bird or I’m copying a flower,” she said. “So, it’s very realistic and image-like.”
Some of her collections include her take on wildlife, flowers and even Tulsa architecture.
When it comes to sharing her work with the world, Anthony-Wilson said it means “everything” to her. She added that beading allows her time to “connect” to herself.
“I think it’s so important to connect with yourself and to take that time. Especially as Native Americans we have a lot of healing to do,” she said. “We have a lot of trauma and a lot of pain from the past, so to be able to have that time to sit with myself and just be with myself and be with my beads, it’s so healing.”
As for being a Native creator, Anthony-Wilson said it is important that there is “raw, real Native representation.”
“Growing up in a predominantly white suburb as a young, Native American girl was kind of tough. I got a lot of stereotypes thrown at me. People would touch my hair, just a lot of negative stereotypes,” she said. “So, to be a raw, real representation of a 21st century Cherokee woman is really important to me. I also want to inspire young Native artists and other Native Americans that maybe have been hit with those stereotypes as well and don’t feel as connected. Real representation is really important to me, so I try to be that.”
To view Anthony-Wilson’s work, find her on Instagram by searching “j.birdbeadwork.”
This article was first published in the Cherokee Phoenix.