The Bead Society of Greater New York

Beadcap Newsletter

Bead Society of Greater New York
November 2014 Update

by Marie Michal

Our Tuesday night speaker, Grant Wade Jonathan, came to us with a most interesting combination of being both a lawyer and a wonderful beader of Tuscarora raised beadwork.

Grant Wade Jonathan with Helen WeinbergGrant grew up on the Tuscarora Reservation near Niagara Falls, New York, where the Tuscarora beadworkers were internationally known for their "raised" or "embossed" beadwork and the women there were able to establish a cottage industry selling beaded souvenirs to the Victorian tourists visiting the Falls during the nineteenth century. Also known as the "hump or rope" stitch, this technique created three-dimensional shapes by sewing beads in raised arches or by sewing beads over beads. As an adult, he went on to become an attorney and currently works in the Indian Program at the U.S. EPA in New York City. When he is not assisting the Haudenosaunee in addressing their environmental concerns, he pursues his passion of Tuscarora raised beadwork design.

Throughout his childhood, Grant's mother always encouraged his creative talent. As a teenager, his mother passed down the tradition of Tuscarora beadwork, by showing him how to make earrings, barrettes, pincushions, small purses and ornaments using this most interesting stitch. Grant remembers watching his grandmother selecting her beads and using smooth basswood sticks to pack the sawdust into her newly created pincushions. He would join the family on the trip to Prospect Point at Niagara Falls to sell these souvenirs to the tourists.

Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationWhile proficient in creating all forms of traditional Tuscarora beadwork design, Grant particularly enjoys creating his interpretations of Tuscarora "souvenir art", called "whimsies" by the Victorian Europeans. This souvenir art combined traditional Native designs with popular Victorian-era fashions and was adorned with flowers, animals, dates, sentiments or place names such as 'From Niagara Falls'." Like his ancestors, Grant creates a variety of wall hangings such as canoes, horseshoes and picture frames.

As an interesting bit of history, Grant filled us in on how the Tuscarora beadwork first got established at Niagara Falls and where it stands today. While other Indian Nations in the region made and sold beaded souvenirs, the Tuscarora were the only Nation to have the right to sell their souvenirs upon the privately owned lands at the Falls. According to Tuscarora oral tradition, Tuscarora men served and protected U.S. General Peter B. Porter during the War of 1812. General Porter was captured by the British and taken to Fort George, in what is now, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Tuscarora scouts rescued General Porter and as a reward for his safe return, the Porter family, which privately owned all land adjacent to Niagara Falls, gave Tuscarora women the right to sell their beadwork along the Niagara rapids in perpetuity.

Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationIn 1885, private land became public land and the Niagara State Reservation was created. Tuscarora women continued to sell their beadwork along the rapids in what is now Prospect Park. That is, until May of 1936, when the Niagara State Reservation Police barred them from selling their goods on those lands. In June of 1936, the State created a permit system which allowed the Tuscarora to sell their goods on park lands. Currently, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation use a lottery system, open to any Native American lucky enough to receive one of the five permits issued.

Nearly 200 years later, Tuscarora beadworkers still produce this beautiful raised beadwork. While the complex rules and restrictions of the permitting system limit their ability to sell their beadwork along the Falls, the Tuscarora people are happy to still have the opportunity to exhibit and share this exquisite and historical form of beadwork with you today.

Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationIn addition to his artistic pursuits, Grant is passionate about the Tuscarora Nation's historical legacy regarding this tradition and has amassed an extensive collection of antique Tuscarora beadwork on his travels throughout the country. His collection has allowed him to revive old patterns, techniques and concepts that were regularly used by prior generations which he shares with many Tuscarora beadwork communities. Through his art, lectures, conferences and workshops he strives to protect and preserve the history and correct attribution of Tuscarora raised beadwork and the sale of it by Tuscarora families at Niagara Falls, NY.

After viewing pictures of this wonderfully artistic beadwork here, I would think many of our BSGNY members might be inspired to incorporate some of it into their bead embroidery. I know I


Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationWe received a very nice letter from Debbie Rooney, BEADS FOR EDUCATION Cofounder, and Catherine Musele, the young woman the BSGNY sponsors. Catherine has just finished her internship working with nursery school age children teaching them the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes. There was lots of story telling and many songs to be sung making it great fun for all involved. Catherine is looking forward to college, now that her internship has come to an end, where she wants to pursue a career in accounting. Both Debbie and Catherine are very thankful for all help the Bead Society of Greater New York has provided over the years.


Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationChallenge creator/member Milly Valentin announced the new "challenge" for our members. It will be the "Mirror Challenge" to commemorate the BSGNY's 25th Silver Anniversary. Tiny mirrors were passed out to members wanting to participate. You can only use black, white and/or silver beads with the mirror to complete your piece. A due date hasn't as yet been decided upon, but it will be sometime after January. If you are not able to attend meetings, but wish to be part of the Challenge, send a self-addressed stamped envelope (1 stamp is sufficient} to Milly Valentin, 140 Asch Loop, Apt. 24B, Bronx, NY 10475, and she will send the mirror so that you could complete your piece.


We are sad to announce the passing of long-time member June Ballen in late November. June was always the first to volunteer and was a talented beader. In addition to beadwork she was a master crocheter and enjoyed sharing her expertise. But you did not mess around with June's crocheted work. She crocheted a coral lariat of which she was rightfully proud. One night during the winter (about 10 or 12 years ago) June was mugged. Unbeknownst to June the mugger had a gun to her back (she was wearing a heavy coat). She turned around and told him in no uncertain terms that he was not getting her purse because her beads were in it and nobody was going to take her beads from her! He turned and ran – but he fired a shot and hit June in the foot. Fortunately, she did recover from her wound. She will be missed. esther esses & haydee hirsh


Grant Wade Jonathan PresentationWe are always looking for volunteers. Milly Valentin is our Volunteer Coordinator waiting to here from you.

Do check out our beautiful website for extensive and updated BSGNY information. Also friend/like us on our Facebook page.


Bead Artist extaordinaire Joyce J. Scott
(Past BSGNY Speaker & Workshop Instructor)

Maryland to Murano
Neckpieces and Sculptures by Joyce J. Scott,
September 30, 2014 to March 15, 2015 at MAD*

*See details on The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) website.

World of Beads