Monroe - Lakota
The Story of Prison Pendants
inmates in South Dakota jails have the talent and skill - and time - to produce
really fine beadwork with buckskin backing. Some of the best beaders are older
men serving life sentences. Beading supplies are provided by an inmate's family
and when a number of beaded items are finished the family contacts Lakota artist
and pipemaker Alan Monroe (read about Alan below). Alan pays the family for the
items he wants and the family uses the money to purchase gift boxes through the
prison for the beader. Gift boxes contain food and other commissary items and
that is how the beaders get compensated for their work. When Alan receives the
beaded items he adds a pendant hanger and one of his hand crafted bead necklaces.
Alan Monroe - Lakota Artist
Alan Monroe creates his Northern Plains artwork from hides, stone, leather, and wood. He learned the basics of quill working, weaponry, sculpting and pipe making from traditional and contemporary artisans in his family circle. He is a fifth generation pipe maker and considered by many to be a master pipe maker. In his sculptures, Monroe works with a variety of materials such as pipestone, bone, wood and alabaster. He creates small objects like fetishes to large pieces than can weigh hundreds of pounds. Al Monroe's work can be seen in many galleries and museums across the country and he has won many awards. Al Monroe was born in Hot Springs , South Dakota and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He graduated from Hot Springs High School and studied business and art in Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota.
Beads used by Native American artists are usually round but can be flattened (rondelle) or cylindrical. They are usually made of glass and come in a variety of colors. Most are one solid color except for European Trade Beads, which are mulit-colored and sometimes decorated. Beads are measured by the "aught" system with 1/0, pronounced "one aught", being the largest. The larger the number the smaller the bead.
Seed beads are the smallest round beads, 24/0 to 4/0. 24/0 is approx. 1/32 inch
(about the size of a grain of sand). Seed beads are used mainly for beaded items
Most contemporary high-quality seed beads are made in the Czech Republic, Japan or India.