Nation/Clan: Seneca Nation/Beaver Clan
WPA Indian Arts Project Ancestors: Elon Webster (uncle), Ernest Smith, Kidd Smith
“My artwork is both therapy and pure joy to me. Joy, in the look of others, as they proudly wear something that I have made. Beading relaxes me. I find that when I am listening to our social songs while beading, it connects me to a time I can only imagine. When our ancestors would always be busy making things to benifet the tribe or family. When I was young we lived with my grandparents. My grandmother was a beader but not part of the WPA. Every evening, after getting all dishes done, she would clear the table. She went about gathering all her tools; the small light to help her see better, beads, scissors, thread, and her current project. Arranged everything on the table and start beading. She would bead for a couple hours, then put everything away. It seemed like so much work and had no interest. My teenage years are when I started to gain an interest. But, by this time, my grandmother was no longer here and my mother did not bead. So I learned on my own. I would look at things and try to replicate them. I vowed that I would not let this happen to my children or grandchildren. I always ask, “do you want me to show you?” I am glad that my granddaughter has sparked an interest and I can pass my knowledge onto her. People always ask me how to make such-and-such and I respond, “This is how I do it. I can’t say it’s the right way, but, it’s my way.”
It Runs in the Family
Brothers Ernest and Kidd Smith depicted similar subjects in their “Basketmaker” painting and sculpture displayed here. WPA Indian Arts Project artists created items that embody traditional Haudenosaunee material culture, oral history, and sometimes even each other’s work on the project. Ernest Smith is one of the few WPA Indian Arts Project artists who was interviewed about the significance of and inspiration for his work. Beaders Allison Smith and Joyce Reuben Nanticoke are relatives of Ernest and Kidd Smith.
“Growing up, I had always heard about the WPA. But, I had mainly heard about the woodcarvers and all the carvings that were produced. It wasn’t until later in life that I heard/seen some of the beadwork that was produced. Then to be asked to make something using the material that my ancestors had used was exciting. As I was beading I could imagine them all sitting in the workhouse, talking, beading, and laughing. I only wish there were someplace, today, that I could go to to do just that.”