Sam Thomas | Beaded Artwork
June 20–21, 2013, from 10:00 am–5:00 pm
Kahdohdonh (standing forest, as in trees and bushes)
Sam Thomas (Cayuga, Wolf Clan) takes an innovative approach to traditional Iroquois beadwork. Along with his mother, Lorna Hill, Sam has been an important contributor to the revival of raised beadwork. As an artist, Sam feels that you cannot do things exactly the same as before. Visual expression requires imagination. It has to evolve. That goes for traditional beadwork as well as contemporary painting. Although he studies and works with the old styles, Sam’s beadwork is an expression of his individuality. This is readily apparent in his beaded expression of the four seasons on boxes or bags, where the continuity of life flows from one frame to the other in graceful arcing curves of colorful glass beads. Besides creating raised beadwork on velvet, Sam also works with leather, creating jackets and moccasins. He also likes creating cornhusk dolls. But it is the beadwork that Sam is best known for. His whimseys are both wildly lavish and intensely precise articulations of color and form.
Sam’s introduction to beadwork came when he was just a teenager, then living at Niagara Falls. He and his mother took beadwork classes with Faye DuBuc. She taught them how to do “little stuff,” like jitterbug pins. He and Lorna went on from there, doing their own research into the history of Iroquois beadwork, and developing their techniques. Over the years, their reputation grew, as did the demand for their work. Sam has eight siblings, and sometimes they help out with especially big orders. In 1992, Sam became a full-time beadworker.
Besides creating beadwork, Sam also has become very active as a teacher of the art, with about three hundred students a year. He has taught classes to other Natives in Oneida, Wisconsin; Detroit; Brantford, Ontario; and the Canadian Native Centres in St. Catherines, Hamilton, and Thunder Bay.
About the Series: Fenimore Art Museum welcomes Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) artists to spend two days in the museum galleries and outdoors at our Native American Interpretive site Otsego: A Meeting Place. Artists teach and create unique artwork and crafts. Engaging conversations with these artists offer a delightful, insightful way to learn about traditional Native American art skills that have been handed down for generations.
Admission to the Native American Artisan Series is included with regular admission to the Fenimore Art Museum. Admission is free to NYSHA members. Become a member today!