Native American artist puts modern spin on Vans sneakers

New Mexico News

A Santa Fe woman is mixing Native American art with the skating culture. Charlene Holy Bear got the idea to add beads to Vans shoes after attending Gathering of Nations, and since then her art has taken off.

“I would describe them as a modern take on the moccasin,” said Holy Bear.

Santa Fe artist Charlene Holy Bear has been beading her entire life.

“I love to bead, I love to design, that’s pretty much my passion,” she said.

Five years ago, she attended the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque with her son who was part of the show, but didn’t have anything beaded to wear.

“I was like hmm…Ok, I have his regalia but he has no beadwork and that’s just embarrassing, I’m a beader,” she said. “My son should have beadwork, especially at Gathering of Nations. So that’s actually how it started.”

She took her son’s slip-on Van sneakers and went to work.

“It was actually the graphics of his (Vans sneakers). As an artist, as a bead worker, I actually work with graph paper when I do my designs,” she said. “Then you can have symmetry when you design, like for flowers.”

After the event she posted a picture of the shoes on social media and a woman contacted her asking her where she could get some.

“A lady on Pinterest. It was just random out of the blue,” she said.

That’s when she sold her first pair.

“I wasn’t expecting the attention, I just thought it was cool,” she said.

Since then, her art has taken off.

“I’ve got a couple of orders from Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg,” she said. “I sent out some bead work to Hong Kong and Canada.”

Her shoes range from $800-$1000 depending on the beads used. Most recently, she has begun using 24-carat gold beads.

Charlene’s artwork can be purchased here.

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