Every year at SWAIA Indian Market, it seems that I am fascinated by another genre. This year, it was bead and quillwork. Having discovered this past year that my heritage may very well include an Eastern Woodlands tribal background probably has something to do with it. Additionally, the artistic vision and discipline of these artists is amazing to me. Naturally, I was instantly drawn to the work of Emil Her Many Horses.
When Emil is not working full-time as a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., he spends the remainder of his day working on stunning pieces of art for Indian art markets around the country including SWAIA Indian Market. Born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, Emil is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He began learning bead and quillwork when he was in junior high school. He saw an item that he wanted to purchase, but could not afford it, so he decided to make it instead. By enlisting tribal women to work patiently with him until he, in their estimation, had exceeded the quality of their work, he mustered the confidence to secure his fate as an artist.
Emil finds nontraditional “exotic” items that made their way onto reservations in bygone days fascinating. As his submission piece for the 2011 SWAIA Indian Market, and in celebration of the work of his predecessors, he chose to transform a vintage phonograph by decorating the horn with beads in the Eastern Sioux floral style. It is inspired by a similar phonograph found in the Denver Art Museum which is rendered with porcupine quills.
He was kind enough to talk to me about his work, how he learned bead and quillwork, and how what was once considered to be women’s work was ultimately embraced by men as well.
Watch my interview with Emil Her Many Horses HERE: