Beaded Leather Purses

My love affair with seed beads began in 1970, just after graduating from the University of Colorado. I was living in a single room log cabin at 10,500ft. in the Rocky mountains with no running water or electricity and began beading by the light of kerosene lamps. I beaded circular mandalas in geometric patterns that were laced onto leather handbags that I taught myself how to make. Beading fired up my creative energies and provided a means for me to express the beauty I witnessed around me as well as a way of reconnecting spiritually to the world I lived in.

For twenty years I continued to work with beads and leather. In the beginning, I beaded onto a light piece of leather stretched tautly over an embroidery hoop using a simple back-stitching technique. This was taken off the hoop when completed and laced onto the front of a leather purse. Eventually I wanted to break out of my perfectly circular motifs and I started to bead directly onto the surface of the leather handbags. This shift opened up many more design possibilities for the beadwork and I started to take the beading over onto the back of the purses and under the front flaps. In addition, I started to bead 3-dimensionally onto the surface of the purse, building the beads up in layers upon layers.

Unfortunately the first ten years of my beaded hand-bags were never documented, though I do have several of the earliest ones that I made for family members that were returned to me to be photographed. I still occasionally return to making beaded leather products, such as baby moccasins, and still enjoy the feel and smell of leather as I’m working.