Carlene Wiley, left, and Shirley Sims show off ribbons they
won at a past Trail of Tears Art Show and Sale. The sisters
can create numerous types of work from clothing to beadwork.
TAHLEQUAH It could be said that two Cherokee sisters who
are multi-talented artists came to it naturally.
Shirley Sims, of Christie, and Carlene Wiley, of Watts, grew up
in Pumpkin Hollow near Briggs. They made beadwork as children whenever
they could find or purchase beads. Later, they made baskets and
were naturals at it.
Sims said she got started with basket making in 2001 while taking
a computer class at Skelly School near Watts. She was asked to if
she would be interested in working on baskets. At first she was
hesitant, but then she did it and got into it.
I think I went to two classes, and then I invited her (Wiley)
to come with me, and she loved it. Thats how we got started,
and weve really enjoyed it, she said.
Sims said she and her sister started making double-wall baskets
using commercial reed.
Wiley said she was told she was a natural basket maker
when she started learning how to make them. She still has her first
basket as a keepsake. About two years later, the sisters entered
their baskets in art shows, starting with the annual Trail of Tears
Art Show and Sale at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill.
Sims said she didnt win with her baskets, but instead with
beadwork she entered.
That really encouraged me when I won first place. When they
showed me that blue ribbon I went crazy, she said. Thats
what really encouraged me, when I got that blue ribbon. Most of
my blue ribbons are for beadwork. Thats my favorite. Ive
won lots of blue ribbons for my beadwork.
artist Shirley Sims, of Christie, shows two of her beaded
bandolier bags. Sims can create various types of artwork to
honor her Cherokee heritage but prefers to create beaded artwork.
(photo by Will Chavez - Cherokee Phoenix)
Since their early art shows and contests, they have won numerous
ribbons for their baskets, beadwork, ribbon shirts, painted gourds,
jewelry, paintings, textiles, ribbons skirts and quilts.
Weve got a boxful of ribbons, Sims said. I
think we were more proud of the ribbons than we were the money.
Its a good feeling to get those.
Wiley also enjoys beading medallions, but she said making baskets
is her main thing. However, she loves to sew,
The women both speak Cherokee. It was their first language. Also,
they research their artwork so that its authentic to the woodland-style
or Cherokee patterns. Wiley said they try not to copy each others
artistic ideas, but sometimes by coincidence it happens.
Other artists have the same ideas we have sometimes. Its
just coincidence I guess, but we all have the same ideas at times,
Sims said she has also competed against her sister in basketry
in art shows but they try not to compete against each other.
During the recent Cherokee National Holiday they set up a booth
at the CHC. They have been selling their work at the holiday for
nearly 20 years.
artists Carlene Wiley, left, and Shirley Sims grew up in Pumpkin
Hollow near Briggs and have always been interested in creating
art to reflect their culture. Here they are at their booth
at the Cherokee Heritage Center during an annual Cherokee
National Holiday. COURTESY
We enjoy that, too. We meet people from all over the world
actually. We sell our stuff or send it off or take it to where theyre
from. We sold some art to people from China one time, Wiley
Sims said they have had customers from Austria, Japan, Europe and
many of the states.
They come back every year and they look for us. That makes
us feel good. Were known as the sisters, and they
always come back and say hello, Sims said. We have a
lot of fun doing this.
Incorporating Cherokee culture into their artwork is important
for them because the people who buy their art appreciate it and
want the culture.
Yeah, we try to make stuff that would appeal to anyone interested
in Cherokee culture, Wiley said.
Sims added that she and her sister love their culture.
What got me inspired was when I lived in Europe we had this
costume party we wanted to go to and we had make our own stuff,
Sims said. So I called my mother-in-law and asked her to send
me some material. I made these outfits for my husband, and that
really got me going
because we won first place with my costumes.
And then when my husband retired out of the service, me and her
got together. When we started building our baskets thats what
done it all. We started building more.
artist Carlene Buckhorn Wiley, of Watts, shows some of the
ribbons she has won over the years for her artwork. She can
create numerous types of Native artwork, but says she prefers
making baskets and sewing. (photo by Will Chavez - Cherokee