Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock/Okinawan/Hawaiian) began working with beads in early childhood. An eager young dancer, she beaded her first powwow dress at age five. As a dancer she designed and beaded her own regalia as well as making beadwork for other girls. Although historical authenticity is a hallmark of Okuma’s work, she incorporates her own design elements. Every stitch, pattern, and tiny silver ring is designed and handmade by Okuma. Self-taught, she does not refer to her pieces as dolls; rather as “my little people.”
Jamie Okuma skyrocketed to fame when at the age of 22 she became the youngest artist ever to take Best of Show at Santa Fe’s Indian Market (2000), only to be honored with the same award in 2002 and 2012. The awards are hardly surprising. From dolls and traditional objects such as horse masks, to fashion and beaded boots, all of her beadwork and quillwork is executed with such precision, beauty, and obvious passion, that it is quite literally breathtaking. When in 2004 the Wheelwright organized the small tribute of her work—an exhibition that included only nine pieces—attendance at the opening was almost record-breaking.