Huichol Jewelry Innovations

by - Friday, October 20, 2017

The innovative line of Huichol beaded jewelry created for Sundance originates from the beaded jewelry tradition practiced by indigenous Huichol families for a number of generations. Bead work and Huichol folk art contribute greatly to the well being and unity of Huichol families, as it is a way for them to work together to create objects of beauty, objects of their spirituality, and objects that create livelihood and abundance.

As one young woman beader put it, “Me and my grandma, mom, sisters, aunts, and nieces sometimes do our beading together, while our husbands are out working in our corn fields. We talk about what’s going on with our families, the weather, who was born, who died, and how good it feels to have a job that is putting food on the table and helping our families.”

The artistic innovations that have been enhancing the aesthetic and marketability of Huichol beaded jewelry for two decades at the Huichol Center, has launched a new generation of talented folk artists embarking on exciting challenges to their creativity, both individually and collectively. The bead weavers carry on the old traditions and designs, but have also expanded the horizons of the two-dimensional flat bracelets and coiled beaded necklaces of the past with breakthroughs that evolve their artistic vision to new levels. Previous constraints on their talent have disappeared, as new materials and inspirations become available to them in modern times. It is up to the new generation to carry these arts into the future, while at the same time, retaining the essence and substance of the messages embedded in each beautiful piece.

Another bead worker states, “When I’m making a bracelet I’m really saying thank you to the spirit of the design. Like when I make a “God’s eye” design I’m giving thanks in my heart for the protection I have received from the spirit world, and hope they continue to watch over me and give me good luck.”

In addition to innovative new designs made by Aikutzi by Huichol, the creation of our unique jewelry now includes the use of materials that were previously unavailable to the artisans in their remote mountain homeland. For centuries, their settlement patterns were in scattered homesteads far from civilization, where there were no stores. Occasionally traders on mules made their way in, and sold large seed beads in just a few bead colors. In recent times Huichols have been relocated into small towns, and many have moved to the outside world, where they can purchase a wider variety of colors, smaller bead sizes, smaller beading needles, and other additions, such as glass crystals and semi-precious stones, all leading to a wider range of innovations. The increased availability of inspiring colors and raw materials for these talented and imaginative artists has resulted in unique designs that brings their bead work to a new level.

Thus, bead work is an integral part of the Huichol ethnic identity, linking them to other tribal people whose indigenous way of life continues to propagate the stories and folk traditions of their cultures through art. In modern times, Huichol bead work is still an essential component of their highly adorned native dress, while at the same time providing stylish jewelry for admirers in the global market place. Having the ability to stay at home and create folk art, instead of leaving their homes and communities to seek work in distant tobacco fields, is a moving force behind the reasons that Huichol artisans pray in their ceremonies for new ideas and designs. The ability of families to sell their innovative artwork in the global marketplace has made a huge impact on their quality of life, and their ability to sustain their culture and traditions.

For the Huichol bead artist, the process of guiding the needles to pick up each bead, the setting in which it is created, the family unity it sustains, and the joy of keeping their symbolic language alive through art, is the venue through which the Huichol people of Mexico share the beauty and spirituality of their ancient culture with the world.  As one grandma bead artist states, “Every bead I string is a prayer for the world.”

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