Beaded Art

In the 1970’s, the beaded art commonly produced by Wixárika artisans included bracelets, earrings, necklaces and, occasionally, beaded bags and small beaded paintings. It is said by historians that beads, brought to Mexico during colonial times from what is today The Czech Republic, substituted shells, feathers and stones in traditional Wixárika creations. With time, the beaded designs became more elaborate and artisans began producing objects covered almost completely with beads. These include masks, jaguar heads, decorative gourd bowls, Christmas ornaments, eggs and many other items. Today beaded Wixárika jewelry is far more elaborate, especially when it comes to the necklaces. As for other beaded objects, large format sculptures are being produced for international exhibitions and touristic spaces. The first famous large format bead covered work is known as the Vochol, a Volkswagen Beetle that was covered in more than 2 million glass beads and took more than 4,670 hours of labor to complete.

The beadwork done by the Wixárika people has become so popular that major designers and various non-indigenous entrepreneurs are now incorporating beaded work or variations of Wixárika aesthetics and iconography into their products. While this increase in popular consumption of Wixárika work and Wixárika-inspired work has benefitted some artisans and artists, there is a strong concern over cultural appropriation, which gives limited credit of authorship to Wixárika people and rarely produces any financial benefit for individual artists and community members from the use of their designs. In recent years, Wixárika jewelry makers also face competition from cheaper knock-off beaded jewelry produced by low-paid indigenous artisans in other regions of Mexico, Guatemala, and beyond. In general, the artists doing the best work jealously guard their designs for fear of it being copied. For this reason, on our website, we include only a representative sample of the rich variety of designs, always giving credit to its creator.