My Life Through Beading by Tina Osceola

I have met very few people who could walk past a candy store without being drawn in by the rainbows of color that usually drape the walls and stocked shelves with bins of beautifully
decorated gumdrops, jelly beans and foil wrapped chocolates. The burst of colors is hard to ignore. I am the same way with beads! A bead store provokes the same sensory reaction as
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! It is safe to say that I am as addicted to beads as I am to sugar.

This is one of the necklaces I made during the pandemic. Vintage silver mercury dimes, sterling silver findings and red coral.

This addiction started when I was a very young girl. My first memory of beading was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My parents handed me a spool of leather and a bowl of plastic pony  beads  and told me to start stringing bracelets and necklaces. At first they would make the knots in the leather so that the beads wouldn’t fall off, but eventually I did that myself. We would travel throughout the country attending Pow-Wows and  arts  and crafts festivals, where I would sell beaded Jewelry  alongside my family’s crafts.

I will never forget the first time I bought my own beads. We were at a Pow-Wow in Ft. Pierce, Florida and my grandma, Juanita Osceola, gave me $4.00 from her change box and told me that
I could go buy myself a snack. I never made it because the vendor who sold beads and other supplies was set up between our booth and the Pepsi wagon.

I picked out some beautiful blue beads with flowers painted on the glass and my own needles and thread. The vendor put my treasures in a little brown bag and the exchange of money
for the beads was the best feeling EVER! I was 5 years old.

This photo was taken in St Augustine in 1975. I was standing in front of our  family’s arts and crafts booth, selling  my beadwork,  trying to. In the  background from L-R are my mom  (Joanne Osceola), my dad ( O.B. Osceola, Sr),  my Aunt Mary Moore and
her husband Frank Moore.

It seemed like, from that point forward, every quarter that came into my possession was spent on beading supplies. My Aunt Marie taught me how to make rings out of wire and seed beads. I would make a hundred or more at a time and carefully wrap them on pipe cleaners in groups of 10. I  would then “wholesale” them to my Uncle Pete, who had a store down at Shark Valley or I would sell them in our booth on the weekends.

By the third grade, I had learned to make spiderweb collar necklaces, similar to those worn by the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg). It was by this age that I had a firm grasp on entrepreneurship. I made enough profit to buy supplies and chip in to pay my own tuition at St. Ann Catholic School.

As I grew older, my taste for beads matured into a love for Czech glass, handmade lampwork, Swarovski crystal and gemstones. As a teen, my grandmother taught me to string necklaces  using vintage silver coins. We would wear these coin necklaces when we dressed up for our annual ceremonies and special occasions. She would warn me to be careful not to string them too tight because the holes in the coins would cut my thread.

A photo of my grandmother, Juanita  Osceola and I, demonstrating Seminole  arts and crafts at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, FL. This was taken in 1977, I was 9 years old.

My grandmother was a source of inspiration and an enabler when it came to my bead addiction. She would bring me bags of beads to string for her to wear and big, huge chunks of beeswax to use on the string. Every time she would hand me a bag of beads, I would get that same rush of excitement that I felt when I spent my first $4.00′

My grandmother passed away during my sophomore year of college in 1987. I still have some of the beads she gave me as well as one small little piece of beeswax. Beading isn’t a hobby for me. Beading is a way of life and an intimate part of where I come from. I am confident that is in my DNA.

I have passed this love and way of life down to my daughter, Dakota, who is also teaching my granddaughter  Mia, how to string small plastic beads onto stretchy nylon string. We are tying her knots like my grandmother and parents did for me. So if you see me in my favorite local bead store, the Bead Boutique of Naples, and I seem hypnotized, don’t worry about me, I am in my happy place.

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