Chickasaw Nation Highlights Artistic Works of Weaver Tyra Shackleford

This finger-woven shawl, crafted by Tyra Shackleford, is a prime example of the more durable side of traditional textiles. Where some of Shackleford’s sprang weaving creations appear wispy and delicate, this lightning bolt shawl expresses strength, determination and ruggedness.

Published June 24, 2018

SULPHUR, Okla. — Tyra Shackleford has prepared a selection of her award-winning, hand-woven textiles to show through June and July at the ARTesian Gallery & Studios, 100 W. Muskogee St. Her exhibit is open to the public at no charge.

“The Lady” on display at the Eiteljorg (pronounced idle george) Indian Market and Festival.

Shackleford specializes in three pre-European weaving techniques: finger weaving, twining and sprang.

The name of the technique tells the story for finger weaving and twining.

Finger weaving is a versatile technique which uses only fingers and leaves out the loom. Usual finger-woven items include belts, sashes and straps. Patterns like the simple diagonal weave, chevrons, lightning bolts and diamonds are all achieved with slight changes to the weaving process.

Twining, much like the material by the same name, is the process of interlacing strands in a winding pattern to make textiles.

It’s the sprang technique which leaves folks scratching their heads upon first hearing of it and standing in awe when first seeing the finished product.

Sprang weaving is an ancient technique for producing textiles with a natural elasticity owing more to the weave than the fabric. Any number of garment styles can be created with sprang, including lace and elegant women’s finery.

A prime example is Shackleford’s sprang creation “The Lady,” which is a part of the permanent collection at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indiana. It is a visually delicate piece, almost spectral.

Technique is not the only common thread running through Shackleford’s work; there’s also inspiration.

“I take my inspiration from prehistoric artifacts, Mississippian iconography, and Chickasaw culture and stories,” Shackleford said.

In her own words, she expresses cultural identity as a Chickasaw artist by “integrating traditional techniques and materials with innovative shapes and forms.”

Her father, Randy Shackleford, introduced her to Chickasaw culture and traditions as a child by attending stomp dances, language classes, stickball games, and art and craft classes. She learned finger weaving at the age of 12 from a Seminole elder, Wisey Narcomey, who she danced with at stomp dances.

Tyra Shackleford is a Chickasaw artist who specializes in ancient hand-weaving techniques like sprang and finger weaving.

Early on, she focused on perfecting and presenting traditional techniques. Now, Shackleford has successfully expanded these traditional crafts into a conceptual art form. Though, she still uses her work to educate others about Chickasaw culture.

Since 2011, her art has been shown in numerous native art markets, shows, and exhibitions across the United States.

In addition to her exhibit at the ARTesian, Shackleford’s work is a component of a traveling exhibit called “Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art.” Stops on this traveling show include the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, Briscoe Western Art Museum and Institute of American Indian Art’s Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.

For nearly a decade, Shackleford has taken home 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards–returning year after year at festivals and markets such as: the Santa Fe Indian Market, Cherokee Art Market, Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival, Red Earth, Artesian Arts Festival and Southeastern Art Show and Market.

Shackleford is one of many artist with a current presence at the ARTesian Gallery & Studios. Also on display are the works of Paula Loftin, Billy Hensley, Mary Ruth Barnes, Brent Greenwood, Elihu Johnson, Shawn Harjo and Juanita Hanna, among others. Their creations consist of photographs, paintings, jewelry, basketry, pottery and beadwork.

Five separate studio spaces are also occupied by various artists. Joanna Underwood Blackburn, James Blackburn, Margaret Wheeler and Patta LT are current resident artists who work and sell out of the ARTesian’s studio space.

The ARTesian Gallery and Studios is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

To register for classes and workshops, or for more information regarding the reception and other upcoming events, call the ARTesian Gallery & Studios, 580-622-8040.

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