Native American Beading: Keeping the Spirit Alive

Native American Beading: Keeping the Spirit Alive

Having a self-described “high strung” personality, Jack Ridolf of Winter Haven has found a way to make the stresses of daily life disappear. He relaxes by creating items influenced by the Native American culture.

Working with leather, beads and feathers, Ridolf says he has always had a strong interest in Native American history, culture and crafts since he was young.

“I made my first headdress at 9 years old,” he says.

Largely self-taught, Ridolf says he’s derived some guidance along the way from Native American craft books, which give step-by-step instructions to make simple replica pieces.

Although he is not Native American, Ridolf says Native American works inspires him.

“I try to put my own interpretation into each piece that I create. I have tremendous admiration and respect for Native Americans,” he says. “I find that my craft keeps me in tune with a history and culture that is weakening with each generation.”

At one point, Ridolf had a mentor who was Lakota Sioux.

“He taught me a few tricks and also got me started in beadwork,” Ridolf says, and adds that the mentor was a ceremonial dancer.

“I was honored to make his dance regalia, a fully-beaded vest, moccasins, belt and knife sheath,” he says.

There are many various methods of beading. Most of Ridolf’s work is done in the tradition of the Sioux, and is called lane or lazy stitch. Tools of the trade include nymo thread, beading needles, beeswax, #11 seed beads and scissors.

Ridolf gets his supplies from a variety of sources, including pow wows, tanneries and specialty Native American craft suppliers, typically located in Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.

“I have crafted a variety of Native American crafts and have recently started to make contemporary handbags,” Ridolf says. “The patterns and styles are my own.”

Ridolf attends craft fairs primarily for the purpose of showing his work, and maintains that his goal is to simply show it, not necessarily to sell.

“I have, however, taken custom orders for handbags and baby moccasins, which make for a very unique baby gifts,” he says.

Jack Ridolf can be reached at 631-987-5858.