Kevin Fast Horse: Beadwork Challenges

In take #4 of our trip to Kevin's studio, he tells us (and accidentally shows us) some of the unique challenges involved with working with Italian glass beads, proudly relates how he helped his son get to know these beads, and explains some of the design elements behind his famous geometric patterns.

[Kevin] A lot of people (I don't know why) like to rub my beadwork [Kevin says this smiling]. So if I don't pull the rows nice and snug, they could pop - I like to check the back of my beadwork to make sure there are no loops or knots that could bind up and cause a row to be weak.

The lazy stitch [also known as the "lane stitch" - this is the technique Kevin is famous for] is the traditional way to bead.

[Rose] So even though your beads are irregular sized, they're not necessarily uniform [remember Italian glass beads are pretty unique to work with], your resulting beadwork is perfect. How do you do it?
[Kevin] You have to work with the beads for a long time and get to know them. I'll admit its not easy, it's hard to do…

I did a cradleboard with my son once. It had a yellow translucent background, and it was pure frustration for both of us (but more for him than for me because I knew the beads and he didn't). I tried to explain things to him and show him…by the end he finally said, "I see what you mean now".

It took him a long time to help me bead this piece (it was about 16 inches long by 8 inches wide). He got really frustrated and kept saying "these beads don't work together"…so we talked about how to space them and set them apart from each other so they lay right.

[Right here is where Kevin gets a knot in his thread…"one of the hardest to get out". But he smiles and pleasantly works on getting the knot out of his thread while he continues with the interview...]

But we did that cradleboard (and it took us awhile), but I didn't let him give up…he wanted to quit and do something else, but I said no we're going to do this. He was worried about what I thought because it was taking him so long, but I told him not to because I wanted him to learn this…he finally got it. We did it!

Then I had him help me with a wolf robe and I showed him an easier bead to work with (he was happy about that, he liked those beads).

[Back to the knot. Kevin refers back to the knot he's working on and explains that he doesn't want to just cut it because there's a lot of thread left…and Kevin's a stickler about not wasting materials and tying off more knots in his work than he needs to.]

[Kevin] Its funny (the knot) that this happened while we were doing this (filming)…

[While Kevin continues to work on the knot, we take a look at some of his finished beadwork, and Rose asks about the geometric designs.]

[Rose] Your geometric designs are extremely elaborate…they seem to go on with out any end; in a historical sense, were geometric patterns always like that?
[Kevin] No…[continuing to work on the knot]…that's something I brought to life. I actually incorporated that kind of [endless] design element after seeing some big rugs with cool designs in old Victorian houses.

So if you look at my geometric designs, even if you covered all the corners, except one, the pattern can still stand on its own.

[Rose] It has a balance.
[Kevin] It has balance.

So, I took that concept and integrated it into traditional Lakota designs to come up with this.

…Oh, and I got my knot out [Kevin proudly holds up his now knot free string and Rose and I cheer].