Jackie Larson Bread is a beadworker from the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana, who currently lives in Great Falls. She won the Best in Show prize at the 2013 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Marketfor "Memory Keeper," a beaded hatbox featuring members of her family and her tribe. Shortly after the win, she discussed her work with an ICTMN correspondent.
How did you come to be one of the Native art world's most prominent beadworkers?
I have been beading all my life, since childhood. My grandmother, who passed away before I was born, beaded. So I have always been interested in how it was done, and taught myself the techniques by studying her items, and the beadwork done by the ladies of my tribe. Among the Blackfeet, everyone knows the basic techniques. When I was 14, I started to work at the Museum of Plains Indians, which I continued to do for ten summers, where I was amazed by the beadwork, so I learned even more techniques. Then I attended the Institute of American Indian Art, in Santa Fe, to study painting and printmaking. I wanted to figure out how to introduce beadwork, because I like the mix of traditional and contemporary imagery, using old photographs. First, I did Sitting Bull and Geronimo, then photos of our people — 90% of what I do is about the Blackfeet, telling what we look like, sharing our homes and designs. It takes so many hours that you have to be really passionate — it is time consuming! But I will always continue to do beadwork, even with the time factor, because I like it so much.
Is there a specific Blackfeet aesthetic you need to follow, or are you free to choose whatever you like in terms of colors, designs, and subjects?
I used to confine myself to traditional ideas of beadwork, but now I do what I feel comfortable with — though I do not show any ceremonial things. I stay with what is right to tell. I share the lodges, the tipi designs.
Like the pictures of your family?
Yes, my dad's aunts and uncles. I like to look through photos of our family members. Finding someone new is exciting — I would show the picture to my father, and he would explain how we are related to the person.
Where do you usually show?
I show at Indian Market in Santa Fe, at the Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Tucson, and in Montana.
And now you've won Best in Show at Santa Fe Indian Market — probably the most prestigious award a contemporary Native artist can receive — after how many years?
I've showed for 15 years! I love coming to Santa Fe, and looking at what everybody does. It's amazing. So to be recognized Best of Show is astounding, it's the hugest honor. I am so happy I won, after 15 years.