LUMBERTON — Alicia Chavis casually picked up beading about 10 years ago from her friend, Daphne Dunn. Beginning as a spectator, it wasn’t long before Chavis got her hands in on the fun.
Starting out with little things, such as earrings, Chavis progressed on to more intricate items and, with the help of friends, she continues to pursue her passion for beading, as both student and teacher.
“I learned how to peyote stitch from Reggie Brewer,” Chavis said. “He also taught me how to make moccasins.”
Chavis learned other beading styles from her go-to friend, Cindy Bowman, who is also a seamstress.
About three years ago, she was approached about teaching a workshop through the Museum of the Southeast American Indian. Her students not only leave the beading workshops with the makings of a new skill, they also take home a better appreciation for the work that goes into the beading. It can take hours just to make something small.
“It’s not easy,” Chavis said. “It takes time and a lot of patience to really develop your craft and your style of beading.”
Chavis enjoys seeing her students build on what they learn in her workshop.
“Teaching something like this is way better than anything I could ever sell you,” she said. “It’s nice to see where a student shares that passion. You can’t teach passion.”
Chavis said she doesn’t make a lot of money with her bead work, but she doesn’t seem concerned. Money isn’t her motivator.
“For me, it’s just more for the love of doing it,” she said. “Art has always been a part of my life. I think beading was a natural progression.”
Chavis continues to learn new beading styles, exploring ways to incorporate them into traditional and contemporary projects. Her biggest project to date is a vest that her brother, Patrick A. Green, wears as part of his powwow regalia. It took about a year to finish the bead work on Green’s regalia, and the vest alone is the work of a few months.
When they have time, Chavis and her brother work together on beading projects, including the vest.
“You can teach your family, and then they can help you,” Chavis said. “I told him, ‘I’m not beading this by myself.’ It was required that he help me.”
Green said beading was something he wanted to learn from his sister, and that he picked it up quickly.
“I did the rosettes on the back,” he said. “And I helped her do one side, outlining the bear claws.”
After he got the beading basics down, Green said he developed his own technique.
“Not everybody beads the same,” he said. “They have their own distinct technique of beading.”
Chavis is proud of her contribution to his regalia, which includes moccasins, a pipe bag and roach spindles.
“It means more when you do it for family,” she said. “It has more personal meaning.”
His complete regalia represents a familial effort. Chavis’ brother also beaded the side tabs, arm cuffs and bands, choker and roach spreader. The wooden gun was crafted by their father, Patrick E. Green. Their mother, Phyllis C. Green, completed the sewing of his shirts, aprons and trailer, as well as sewing together the vest, side tabs and arm and leg bands.
“Your regalia is a representation of you, and if you can carry things from your family with it, all the better,” Chavis said.
Chavis’ brother previously attended a longleaf pine needle workshop with Lumbee artist Gloria Tara Lowery and put his lessons to work in creating his own bandoleer and headband.
“He picked up on that — the pine needle stuff,” Chavis said. “I couldn’t. I got frustrated.”
Her brother is looking forward to a new vest.
“I’ve had this outfit for about four years now,” he said. “I think I’m about ready to start something fresh.”
In addition to possibly beginning the new vest for her brother, Chavis anticipates working on something for graduation attire and practicing moccasins. She also hopes to learn portraiture and she has yet to tackle appliqué — a two-needle beading technique.
“Even when we are very skilled, we must remain humble,” Chavis said. “I tell my students that, while I may have years of experience, there is still a lot I have yet to learn.”
Juanita Lagrone can be reached at 910-416-5868.