Beaded bag show aims to inspire other artists

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2001

Design and age spell the difference among the bags displayed in the 10th Annual Beaded Bag Exhibit at Spirit Beads.

Some date back to the 1840s. Others are decorated with porcupine quills - a unique traditional adornment. A few have been seen by visitors at previous shows. Most are new.

Spirit Beads owner and bead artist Salty Hanes hopes all the bags in the show will drive visitors to create their own works of art.

"It's to encourage people to be creative during the year," Hanes said. "It was also to encourage people who had these gorgeous antique bags that just sat in a dresser (to display them) so that the public could see them once a year and be inspired."

Hanes has been beading since childhood, though she said her initial efforts with a beading loom were less than ideal. The loom is made up of tiny threads, and beads are hung between them to create a pattern.

"I just didn't have anyone to help me, so my beads fell off once I cut it off the loom," Hanes said.

Her efforts grew more successful, and when Hanes came to Juneau she began taking beading lessons from the now-deceased Clara Wilson, who designed moccasins. After working with other artists in the community, she opened a tailoring business in 1984. It became Spirit Beads in 1992.

Over the years the business moved up and down the Juneau hills, bouncing from its current location at 217 Fifth St. to the Emporium Mall and back. At the moment, Hanes is content.

"The park is right across the street, so we can sit outside and bead when the weather dictates," she said. "I have the best job."

Hanes founded the beaded bag show with no expectation it would become an annual event. The number of items on display has expanded; this year, she had to build two new display units to house over 50 items.

Though different, the bags each appeal to Hanes in certain ways.

"The beads probably speak to me the most," she said. "Then the design features - if it's well-balanced - and then the construction ... whether it's a well-made bag so that you can use it."

Twenty-five of the bags are from Donna Mayfield's collection. Mayfield, a valley resident who has been collecting bags since childhood, has never displayed any of the pieces before.

"She's got a gorgeous collection," Hanes said. "They date back to the 1840s."

Other pieces were designed by Bob Fink, a resident of Cordova and the Yukon.

"He uses quills and beads and shell," Hanes said. "He also teaches quill work sewing quills down on the fabric ... the way they would decorate clothes and bags to cover rifles in the past."

Hanes will display several of her own bags in the show, and a number of other pieces will make a repeat appearance.

"Some of them are from previous shows because it is the 10th annual," Hanes said. "I've never shown a bag two times, but this year I did."

Not all the bags are for sale, but those that are range in price from $45 to the most expensive item, a two-year-old beaded handbag priced at $1,365.

Hanes will hold a "meet the artist" reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on July 14. Spirit Beads is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, or by appointment. Call 463-3220.

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