New Mexico artist applies native craft in flamboyant style
With a steady hand, Teri Greeves picks up a pair of green sesame seed-size glass beads on a slender, narrow-eyed needle and stitches the beads onto the side of a size 17 tennis shoe in her studio in Santa Fe, N.M.
“This piece is called ‘Hoop Dance,’” says Greeves, 40, describing the image of a spirited American Indian dancer, with swirling hoops around his arms and legs, taking shape on the high-top Converse sneaker.
For the last decade, Greeves, a member of the Kiowa Tribe in Oklahoma, has applied traditional bead-working techniques and images to contemporary fashions and everyday objects, embellishing everything from bracelets and handbags to blankets and umbrellas.
Her colorful and flamboyant beadwork has won numerous art awards and been selected for permanent display at more than a dozen museums, including the British Museum in London, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Greeves is grateful for the recognition, not for herself, but for the spiritual messages her beadwork conveys. “I hope by speaking the history and values of my people through my work, I can help bring balance into the world,” says the married mother of two sons.
Growing up on central Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, Greeves began beading at age 8, learning the craft from artisans who visited her mother’s arts & crafts shop to sell their beaded belt buckles, earrings and pairs of high-top tennis shoes. “Those shoes were fantastic and unforgettable,” she recalls.
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