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JERRY WARD - June 2002

The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.

Jerry Ward

Jerry Ward specializes in a wide range of crafts from different tribal traditions and time periods. Encouraged by his grandparents, Jerry started making crafts at an early age. His inquisitive nature made him question how everything was made, not only regalia, but also everyday items.

"I was fascinated by flint knapping as a boy," says Jerry, who often found arrowheads or fragments during his early childhood. "My father told me no one was making arrowheads or tools that way anymore, so I experimented and began teaching myself." In his in depth research, he has discovered that the Comanche used seven different kinds of arrows.

Later in life, Jerry learned from expert flintknappers. He also talked with elders to find out more about making regalia and ceremonial items. They showed him traditional techniques and shared tribal history, telling him how items were used in the past and noting the differences between items used by men and women.

"Each piece has a story to tell," says Jerry. "Whether I'm brain-tanning deer hides to make moccasins or flint knapping stone arrowheads, I'm reminded of the importance of preserving these items, as well as the original materials and methods used to make them."

Jerry has learned seven different beading techniques and makes clothing, musical instruments, tools and weapons from many different tribal styles and time periods. He has also studied different types of roaches and today makes five different styles.

"I am very grateful to the elders who shared their knowledge and skills with me so freely," says Jerry. "Everything I know today, I owe to those who taught me." Today Jerry is continuing this tradition by sharing his knowledge and teaching others, serving as a link in the continuation of traditional arts and culture.

His research has taken him to several museums where he's studied collections and old photographs of everything from simple utilitarian items to ornately decorated ceremonial attire. His exploration has helped him create pieces with conscientious accuracy, for which he has become well known. This recognition has made his work a favorite among competitive pow wow dancers who are judged not only on their dancing, but also their regalia.

Jerry has served as the master of ceremonies and arena director at pow wows throughout eight states in the Southeast and Midwest. As the "Artist in Residence" for the Oklahoma State Arts Council in July 1993 to June 1995, he set up programs and demonstrations at local schools. He's taught flutemaking, quillwork and beadwork at the Jacobson House Art Gallery and enjoys demonstrating and performing throughout the country.

Jerry has devoted his life to mastering the ancient skills of his ancestors and keeping them alive. "While performing my craft, my hope is to revitalize an awakening in other Native Americans to secure their traditional art."

                                                              ©The Indian Craft Shop 2002