Kevin Fast Horse: Beadwork Designs

Before he even touches a bead, beadwork artist Kevin Fast Horse carefully creates each of his signature designs on graph paper to ensure the composition not only works visually, but will also accommodate the size of beads he uses.

[The conversation begins as Rose asks Kevin about his #1 piece of advice for the new, up-and-coming generation of Native American artists.]

[Rose] I hear you giving that recommendation to young artists…to get the graph paper out, make lots of copies of it, and start making some designs.
[Kevin]…and always leave one blank to make more copies.

[Kevin shows us some of his designs. They are organized by design theme and kept in folders]

[Kevin] Each folder has a label. In this one is my horses and butterflies…and I have a lot of butterflies. These are the horses - this one is based off Paul Goble's book The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses - I talked to him (we visited for hours). I asked him if I could take some of his drawings and turn them into beadwork designs, and he said "Sure, go ahead".

These are the Many Horses…what's neat about this design is that I actually have it in a few different sizes, one for 10/0s and one for 12/0 sized beads.

[Rose] So before the beading even begins, you sit down and put a lot of thought into the design…
[Kevin] Exactly. I want it [the design] to be centered, I want everything to be noticeable…nothing is left out - from the hoofs, to the eyes, to the tip of the horse's tail. I also want it [the design/figure] to look like what it's supposed to be - [laughing, Kevin explains] when I first started, my horses looked like dogs.

[He carefully puts the designs back in the folders, and referring to them says]…these are 25 years in the making.

This is my favorite one [this is the folder with all his geometric designs]. One of the things I do that no one else really does is I'll make my central diamond large and then place another design inside it.

[He has A LOT of these geometric designs. Each is unique and he easily recognizes those he's used previously and those he's never done].

[For instance, he looks at one design] I've never used this one…this one has squares. How often do you see my designs with squares?

[Rose] You're highly organized…do you go back into your designs and re-inspire yourself or reinvent older designs?
[Kevin] I think as an artist you really need to go back and look at your work to avoid being repetitive and then saying your unique and one-of-a-kind. You can't be both.