Above: Hollis Chitto of Laguna Pueblo and Mississippi Choctaw descent. Photograph by John McCauley.

SWAIA’s annual Indian Market, August 17–18, has been a game changer for boosting the profile of beadworkers, in recent decades attracting notables like Jamie Okuma, Dallin Maybee, the Growing Thunders, Emil Her Many Horses, Elias Not Afraid, and Hollis Chitto to its ranks. These artists have so elevated beadwork as a collectible art form that it’s almost impossible to find anything left on their tables by Saturday afternoon.

Since entering the scene, Chitto has made a name for himself with highly refined techniques, a definitive style, and precise use of specific beads, all of which has won him awards and helped build a sophisticated clientele. His challenge now is to bring beadwork into mainstream fine art spaces.

What was your evolution as a beadworker?
When I was very little, my parents hung out with Maynard White Owl Lavadour, who is one of the most prolific Plateau beadworkers of our time. I fell in love with his beadwork. It was around this time I decided I was going to bead. In the beginning of my career, I was focused on making things beautiful. I wasn’t concerned with incorporating conceptual or abstract elements—until I created a piece for the Abbe Museum’s Twisted Path series, in Maine, which focuses on the theme of health and well-being in tribal communities. I created a beaded handbag that focused on the issues our communities face in connection to HIV [at right]. This serious topic compelled me to elevate my work conceptually, and it was probably the most important and meaningful piece I’ve ever created.

Talk about your workflow.
I love a challenge. I am always thinking about different materials to use, changing my design concepts, playing with colors and shapes. I am inspired by other beaders like Jamie Okuma, art exhibitions, and of course nature. I like beading bags because it gives me the freedom to create something that can be displayed as art but also worn as couture. I just sold a piece that I am hoping the new owner will wear rather than display.

Get to Chitto’s Indian Market booth early: 724 LIN-E.

Story Sidebar

Beadweaver: 503 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe

Gloriana’s Fine Crafts: 55 W. Marcy St., Santa Fe

Silver Dust Trading Company: 121 Route 66, Gallup

Case Trading Post at the Wheelwright Museum: 704 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe

Morning Star Gallery (historic beadwork): 513 Canyon Road, Santa Fe