Art Jewelry Forum: Hollis Chitto, Blurring Traditions in Native Beadwork


The style of beading Chitto uses in his work follows the outline of a drawing. This method is called contour beading. Filling the space from the outside in creates a halo or ripple effect as the outline of the image radiates into the background. Chitto chooses vibrant, saturated colors. He combines traditional Pueblo pottery motifs and Art Nouveau sensibilities in his designs. The artist thinks of beading more like coloring and less like sewing, but needles and thread are involved in the process. He uses both single stitch and two-needle applique to make his work, occasionally incorporating other techniques like wire wrapping and pearl knots for details.

Besides a few pieces inspired by bird photographs, Chitto’s work features bold, geometric flowers. Floral patterns in Native work trace back to French-Canadian traders and nuns. They shared floral motifs, and Native beaders expanded on the designs. These floral designs evolved over generations. Individual style and choices are reflected in subtle decisions about the color, size, material, and shape of the beads preferred by each tribe and then by each beader.

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