Jean Jacket by Ann-Erika White Bird

Jean jacket with bright, beaded geometric patterns and an eagle
Beaded Jean Jacket
Ann-Erika White Bird
beads, denim, metal


Detail image of a beaded jean jacket with bright red, green, yellow, orange, and blue geometric designs and a representational eagle beaded in the center
Use of color

Ann-Erika primarily used bright and bold colors for the decorative patterns in the beadwork while she used black, white, grey, and gold beads to make the eagle. This creates a visually interesting contrast between the bird and the other designs. The blue beaded stripes above and below the eagle give the sense that it is soaring through a vast landscape.

Detail of beaded eagle on the back of a jean jacket

Artists use different stitching techniques to achieve different visual effects. Look at the lines that make up the geometric shapes and compare them with the representational design of the eagle.

Detail image of bright red, green, yellow, orange, and blue geometric designs on a jean jacket
Geometric and representational designs

In many Native American tribes, men historically made representational images, while women made geometric ones. As time went on, however, women began making representational images too. Here, Ann-Erika has used both kinds of designs.

Detail of gold round beads and oblong cream colored beads in a pattern on a jean jacket

If you look closely at the jacket, you will see that Ann-Erika added other elements besides the beaded panel. When making art, she says, “…I utilize not only beads but other modern items such as brass and steel buttons, sterling silver stamped buttons and whatever else appeals to me in creating my piece.”


What is it?

This is a child-sized Levi’s jean jacket with beading by Ann-Erika White Bird, an artist from the Sicangu Lakota Nation. She added a panel of her beadwork in the center on the back as well as a row of arrowhead shaped dangling beads across the bottom. On the front she sewed an additional embellishment over the right breast pocket.

Who made it?

This object was made by Ann-Erika White Bird, who is originally from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, but now lives in New Mexico. She is a poet and journalist in addition to a beadwork artist, and has been beading since 1999. She started out making moccasins for relatives, and eventually began beading bags, jewelry, clothing, and other objects as well. Ann-Erika says, “I would describe my work as traditional Lakota art with contemporary flair as I use contemporary elements.” Her art is inspired by her environment, her own thoughts, and her interactions with other people. She also says, “I am inspired to create from the things I need in my own life, whether it’s to create a fancy shawl dress for my daughter or a bead purse for [an] invite-only gala.”

What inspired it?

Ann-Erika was commissioned by the Denver Art Museum to make an object that people could touch and interact with. She created this jacket, and says that when she was making it she was thinking of the children who might try it on, “especially the Indigenous children who do not know where they come from. If a child were to make a connection that way, through our art to where they come from, then my work could be a part of returning our children home. We affect each other in many ways that we cannot possibly know or understand. My intentions, thoughts, and prayers went into this piece.”

How is it made?

For this object, Ann-Erika created the beadwork designs on a panel of fabric, and then sewed the panel onto the jacket, along with some small accessories. She likely used a combination of lane stitch and two-needle applique to make the eagle design and geometric patterns.

Drawing of Lazy Stitch Drawing Credit: Barbara Hail, Hau, Kola! The Plains Indian Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology University of Washington Press, 1993
The lane stitch, also called lazy stitch, involves attaching a string of beads to a surface by sewing it down at each end. There are usually anywhere from six to eleven beads in a row, and this technique can be used to cover a large area quickly.

Drawing of Spot Stitch Drawing Credit: Barbara Hail, Hau, Kola! The Plains Indian Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology University of Washington Press, 1993
In two-needle applique, it requires two needles, just like it sounds, and two separate threads. The first needle holds the thread with the beads on it, and the second is used to tack down the beads by hooking the second thread over the first and sewing it down after every two beads. This allows for very precise placement of beads, which is helpful for creating complicated designs.


  • How is this jean jacket different than other jean jackets you have seen?
  • Why do you think the artist chose to put an eagle on the jacket?