Three Ways To Incorporate Native American Beadwork Traditions Into Your Beadwork

Jul 11, 2012

There's no doubt that for many of us, beading is a spiritual practice. For the Native Americans of North America, beads and jewelry were a particularly important part of their spiritual beliefs, and with the introduction of seed beads and smaller beads used to add embellishment to ritual objects in the early 1800s, the practice of beading itself took on a spiritual significance.

Because I've always felt that beading is a very important part of my spiritual well-being, I try to incorporate some of these Native American beadwork traditions into my own beading.

Desert Tapestry Bracelet by Phyllis Dintenfass

Beading when you're happy. I remember reading an article in a very old issue of Beadwork magazine about a Native American beadwork and basket artist who said that she tries not to bead when she's angry or sad, because she doesn't want to work her negative emotions into her beadwork. I try to watch comedies and happy movies while I'm beading, especially if I need to bead when I'm feeling stressed out or sad. The combination of the happy movie and my beadwork usually does the trick to snap me out of my funk.

Serengeti Earrings by Phyllis Dintenfass

Include a spirit bead. One of the better-known Native American beadwork traditions is the inclusion of a spirit bead somewhere in your beadwork. A spirit bead is a reminder that nothing that is created by human hands can be perfect. (It can also be referred to as a "mistake".) Native American beadwork artists will intentionally include a bead that is the wrong color somewhere in a piece of beadwork as a way to honor the Great Spirit and express humility. I'm pretty sure that most of us have included a spirit bead in our beadwork at one time or another!

Rainforest Necklace by Terri Wlaschin

Make your beadwork a prayer. Traditionally, Native American beadwork artists include prayer as part of their beading rituals. And for many of us, beading is the perfect form of mindful meditation. It's easy to make your time spent doing beadwork into a spiritual retreat. Light some incense or a candle, put on some relaxing or uplifting music, and remember to stop and take a deep breath every now and then. Remind yourself that beading is a journey, not a destination!

Now all you need is a few new beading projects to keep you moving down the path to greater spirituality in your beading journey, right? And right now, all beading projects in the Beading Daily Shop are on sale, through July 13, 2012. Stock up on some new beading projects, find new ideas and new inspirations, and best of all, save some cash so you can buy more beads! Check out all the great beading projects in the Beading Daily Shop and get in touch with your spiritual side by practicing some of these Native American beadwork traditions while you bead!

Do you have a special ritual for your beading sessions? Do you listen to any special music? Maybe you're like me, and you like to watch movies while you bead. I live to watch movies because this way, when the movie is over, I have to get up and change the disc so that I don't sit for too long. Leave a comment and tell us how you like to make the perfect environment for happy beading!

Bead Happy,


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Laurel B wrote
on Jul 11, 2012 3:42 AM

Hi Jennifer,

Beading is also a spiritual practice for me.  I bead in silence and engage in mindfulness practice, or listen to chakra music or a prayer set to music, such as Ardas, or Mender of Hearts, by Singh Kaur.   Glad to hear I am not the only one who practices beading meditation!


pamfortony wrote
on Jul 11, 2012 11:08 AM

Hi Jennifer

The way I use to make my beading a spiritual experience is to put on some Christian worship music and meditate on that concentrate on God and give Him my thoughts and ask Him to guide my designs.  When I do this I find I can relax and enjoy my beading experience to the full



on Jul 11, 2012 1:55 PM

I love to pop in a movie, too! Especially musicals. Music speaks to my soul and makes me happy. I never watch a new movie that I haven't seen, though, because it distracts me from my work! I also need a lot of sunlight to find my peaceful, relaxed, creative state of mind.

tkohara13 wrote
on Jul 11, 2012 7:26 PM

Beading for me is Art Therapy but right now it is a nightmare as I am trying to organize my new jewelry room!  I have stuff all over and it only makes me depressed.  When I do get to bead, I listen to the fish tank, look out my picture window and enjoy the natural light.  It is calming and intimate.  I feel as if I am putting a part of myself in the piece of beading I am doing.  When I am done organizing (will I ever?) I look forward to all that.

airme99 wrote
on Jul 11, 2012 7:42 PM

10 tears ago, I was mostly a casual beader, in love with gemstones and just learning how to wire wrap. I am mostly self taught, and my technique was unconventional, to put it mildly.  I occasionally sold a piece to support my bead addiction.  Then in 2006, my youngest daughter died as a result of an accidental overdose of prescription medications.  Ironic for a young woman who couldn't swallow pills for ,mos of her life.  Chrystal was 18 years old.  Our lives were forever changed with the words," Daddy told me Chrystal is dead."

was a new nurse and thought I knew all there was to know about grief and loss, only to find out that I didn't really know anything.  I lost focus, lost sleep, and ultimately lost my job.  I pretty much hid from the world, wallowing in my own sorrow, even though I tried to be strong for my other children.  I was alternately angry, then said.  The five stages of grief are not orderly, even thought about taking the easy way out and following her into eternity. I was raised a Catholic and remembered my mom praying during the most stressful times. I found myself drawn to the beading table once more, with a new purpose--the rosary.

During bouts of insomnia, I would meditate and pray while designing and crafting rosaries, for who could understand the sorrow caused by the loss of a  child more than our Blessed Mother.  She stood by while her son paid the ultimate price for our salvation.  Not to get preachy, it's just what I believe.  Since that time, my skills and my purpose have evolved.  I found myself designing other pieces. My husband and my son are of Native American descent, and I'm sure there is a bit of Romany blood handed down from my Slovakian ancestors.  Each is piece is made with prayerful contemplation, some practically designing themselves.  I was able to gradually let go of the anger--after all, it is difficult to remain angry when constructing a piece associated with a mother's love.  Beading has become an excellent way for me to decompress, especially during those times when I feel a need for Divine Mercy and Strength.

Anna- Marie Stewart

judyg623 wrote
on Jul 12, 2012 5:29 AM

Hi Jennifer

I bead as a complete change and also watch a good movie while doing so.  I  have licensed child care home and the beading is total stress relief for me.  The idea of a spirit bead is wonderful and will incorporate one from now on.


Swifty0923 wrote
on Jul 12, 2012 7:41 AM

I bead to relax, which at times can seem like an oxymoron if I am working on a difficult piece :)  I have a very stressful job and find that when I am sitting outside in the sunlight with beads in my lap, the world is a better, happier place.  I can't think about other things as I must pay attention to whatever I am beading at the time.

Jennifer, thank you so much for the reminder that beading is a journey not a destination!  


Angel@35 wrote
on Jul 13, 2012 2:08 PM

Hey Jen,

I have a office/crafting room with anything and everything in it...Bass boost speakers that take me to my New Age music via

I get in there...turn on my music and I'm in another world...where the possibilities are endless for my creative juices to start flowing. I look up and it's 4-6  hrs later or the husband starts yelping for dinner, LOL!

I love my room, I will burn my favorite scented candle and let the jewelry making begin.


smilynn47 wrote
on Jul 14, 2012 11:00 AM

I always know I've had a good beading session when I've gone into "the zone"--being so focused on the project that I lose my sense of time and place. I like to think it makes my pieces more artful, but it feels great, for sure! Maybe it is spiritual therapy.  

nmfarmer3 wrote
on Jul 15, 2012 8:51 PM

When I start to bead with traditional Native American like beads the first thing I do is burn a little cedar and sage on my working desk.  I study the shapes of the precious stones I want to use.  Usually from there the stones govern what I want to make.  I like to use semi-precious stones that have a spiritual meaning associated to the person I want to give to.  I have made what I call Protective Bracelets by useing the stones associated to the receivers birth, and situation.  

Denise-au wrote
on Jul 16, 2012 11:04 PM

Like Anna-Marie Stewart (above), I'm also a Catholic. I was making jewelry for my Mum and myself and realised that if I'm going to use this gift for jewelry, I need to use it for God too, so I started making Rosaries.  To quote "Joshua" author, Joseph Girzone, "The gifts and talents God gives us are the same gifts and talents we need in order to reach Heaven."  So sometimes I make jewelry and sometimes I make Rosaries.  My friend, who is also a Catholic beader, does the same thing, so every few weeks, we get together and bead.  We treat it as a Rosary-making ministry, so any money we get from selling the Rosaries, goes straight back into buying more beads, pins, Crucifixes and medals, to support the ministry.  (For those who might be confused, a ministry in this sense means doing something to support the faith and the faithful.) Thank You Lord, for making me a good beader!

on Aug 15, 2012 7:45 PM

What a wonderful article! Thanks so much. Beading takes me out of everything going on around me. I am at peace, focused, and having fun. Creating with my hands is something i hadn't done much of. I used to sew a lot and I've crocheted and embroidered. I LOVE jewelry making, even as a beginner. I love wire work. I may just light a candle while crafting. What a joy!

Bellarose2nd wrote
on Feb 2, 2014 9:50 PM

I love the idea of making beading part of a spiritual ritual!

it helps remind me that im doing something that i love to do just to relax and not make it a ritual of having to make my art work a living i make it something i love to do to get me away from my everyday thoughts, im in my own little world that i enjoy being apart of