Nine Questions with renowned beading artist Summer Peters, AKA Mama Longlegz
1. Name, age, Nation, where you currently reside.
I am Summer Peters, 35 years of age. I am originally from Mt Pleasant, Michigan from the Saginaw Chippewa reservation. I moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2000 and have been here ever since.
2. How did you start beading? Was there someone who really inspired you in your work?
I started beadwork just by being around it everyday. I thought everyone did beadwork. My mom was constantly doing beadwork and so was my grandma. I learned later that they both were doing custom beadwork to help make ends meet. My mom was a single mom and walked everyday to school. First, to finish up her high school diploma, second, to work on her Bachelors. She really inspired me. I learned the basics from her but she really taught me that you can support your family with your talent.
3. How did you start showcasing your work in competitions and exhibits?
I started entering art competitions at the advice of a really cool Dakota girl I had just met. She was doing art shows with her ledger art and really saw potential in my beadwork. She encouraged me to apply for art shows and reminded me of deadlines. Today, Avis Charley is still my friend and I’ll never forget the inspiration she gave me. So I was accepted into every juried art show I applied to and started winning places in the competition. From placing in my division, people from museums would scout the artists who won and that’s how my work was entered into the first art exhibit I’ve ever taken place in. A lot of being involved in exhibitions is through networking. Networking with fellow artists and others in the art community is a valuable, valuable tool.
4. What are some of your greatest accomplishments in your work?
The first show I participated in, I took second place. I was ecstatic! That was in 2010. I am fairly new to the art show scene so placing in my divisions is always a huge accomplishment. And really, being accepted into prestigious shows like the Heard and SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market are huge accomplishments. Just getting there is amazing. I’m truly honored to be in such company with these incredibly talented and gifted artists. The greatest accomplishment, overall, is being able to do what I love at home with my most loved ones (my kids.) That’s the best thing art could ever give me.
5. Which piece was the most difficult to complete? How long did it take?
The piece that was most difficult was my “Maria Tallchief”. It is a gray scale rendition of Maria Tallchief when she was in Balanchine’s, “Firebird”. This piece was not a huge piece, it fit into a 8 by 11 frame. I worked on it from sunrise to midnight everyday for a month. The detail on the dress, her facial features, the shadows on her arms and legs was painstaking. The part of that piece that I’m really proud of was her tutu. I did that tutu bead by bead. It really turned out marvelous and I’m glad I took the week to really put the work into it. It is now in the hands of a private collector after I showed it at Santa Fe Indian Market in 2012.
6. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am in preparation for the Eiteljorg Indian Art Market in June and Santa Fe Indian Market in August. I have another gray scale portrait and a bandolier bag in the works. You can never start too early with a 1 year old kid running around! I am also collaborating with my wonderfully talented BFF, Sho Sho Esquiro on a piece.
7. There is a resurgence in Indigenous fashion, couture, and design. Do you see beadwork at the forefront of this renaissance? And how are you involved in the scene? (ie. Beyond Bucksin, etc.)
I’ve only recently really recognized that this was a movement. I don’t see beadwork at the forefront; I see beadwork, fashion, paint, sculpture, metalwork all at the forefront. It’s a united front, a Native Renaissance. I feel like I’m definitely a part of it just from being around these great artists that I recognize as being a part of it. There really is a movement in self-expression. It’s about doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. It’s about being as quirky as you are and not caring who thinks it is weird. It’s about pushing boundaries but at the same time, showing reverence and respect to your traditions. It’s about presenting art the way that your soul will have it. It’s about love and respect for the artists who have came before you but it’s about being true to who you are. I don’t think we have to stifle and censor and edit our art. I’m not talking about celebs in fake headdresses or Paul Frank or any of those well-documented cases of misappropriation. I’m talking about pixelated Ojibwe floral, giving a new twist on something very old and beautiful. I am one of several Beyond Buckskin Boutique artists, hand chosen by the lovely Jessica Metcalfe. The BBB is a great answer to all these big apparel companies who use generic “Native” design. It really is a lot of work to show the world that Native Americans aren’t all teepees, war bonnets, feathers, horses… This renaissance is about the Native American in 2013 and years to come.
8. Who have you collaborated with in the past?
I have recently collaborated with Steven Paul Judd, who is a fabulous artist and an overall great guy. When I first met him, I showed him a piece that I did with this superhero girl that I had created. It was pretty apparent we were two 12-year-old boys at heart with our love of comics and other cool, quirky things. So when he asked me to be a part of the Wonder Woman painting he did and told me his vision, I was down from the start. It was a dream project because I grew up watching “Wonder Woman” with Lynda Carter. She was always one of my heroes. It was really a no-brainer when he asked me and an honor that someone I look up to would think my work was worthy to collaborate with.
9. How can people own a piece of your art?
People can contact me at my email: email@example.com or connect with me via my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mamalonglegz. To see my new creations in person, I will be at the Eijteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 22-23, 2013. I will also be showing at Santa Fe Indian Market in August. Come out and say hello! I love meeting new people.