Something of a whiz kid, this 31-year-old bead artist has won Best in Show at the 2014 Heard Museum Market, in Phoenix, as well as a slew of other prestigious awards, at Santa Fe Indian Market and everywhere else he has exhibited.
This unusual, 15-strand necklace sparkles, and not only with the gold beads and iridescent crystals. Ken’s unique style combines the traditional heritage of both his Arapaho and Seneca backgrounds, and his contemporary vision and sound technique. The gleaming white shell here is a type of mollusk, used by Natives of the Northwest and West for centuries. They were given the name “dentalia” because of their tusk-like form. Tribes prized these shells for adornment and trade, much as purple “wampum” was, along the East coast. (Conjure up visions of Plains Indians with chokers of long white beads wrapped around their necks, and similar breastplates.)
That’s the traditional part; mixing dentalium shells with elegant Swarovski crystals and gold-plated glass beads reveals the artist’s modern vision. The scintillating blue, gold and white palette is fresh and upbeat, and can easily act evening-elegant as well.
Fine, traditional beading in matching materials decorates the ends. There is a sparkling, deep blue, heart-shaped crystal dangling from the gold hook and eye. The ends and heart are so pretty, I think you could probably wear this necklace back-to-front, as well as the more conventional way – or with the the back to the side, at the level of your collar bone. Whichever way you choose, you cannot lose with this new look of prize-winning beadwork that would be at home anywhere in the world.