For nearly two years, Barbara Sayers (Bear Clan) had been hard at work with the largest beading project she has ever taken on. She originally aimed to complete a beaded purse, with the Oneida Indian Nation logo stitched in, for the 2020 New York State Fair. But with its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was given more time to intricately detail it with a peyote stitch; a difficult and time-consuming technique where you have to thread one bead at a time. It truly is one-of-a-kind.

Barb takes great pride in her beadwork – regarded as a gift from the Creator by the Haudenosaunee – and has extended that gift to the next generations. Her daughter, Jessica Jackson, has been beading since the age of five and has encouraged her own children to take it up as well.

“We’d always go to the Fair with my mom and grandmother,” Barb said. “They would go to the Erie County Fair, too, and up to Cattaraugus, Tonawanda and Tuscarora.”

Modern designs are something Barb loves to create. She likes to add a few newer pieces to go along with the more traditional designs she learned from her mom and grandma. For Halloween, she worked on ‘Scream’ earrings and a Michael Myers necklace. She says any holiday themes are always a favorite at the craft fairs.

“I like to do a lot of newer designs,” she mentioned. “Anything to keep it updated and fresh.”

So when Barb had the idea to do a big over-the-shoulder purse, she wanted to think of a way to make it stand out. The cancellation of the 2020 State Fair meant she’d be able to devote more time to the piece, and the hard work and dedication really paid off.

Barb took home a first place ribbon for her beaded purse at the Six Nations Agricultural Society Indian Village this past summer. The purse also caught the eye of Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who purchased it shortly after. The Nation emblem was designed by his mother, Gloria Halbritter, but it never had been captured in such a large beaded piece.

“I wanted to make it noticeable and I’ve always liked the emblem,” Barb said. “I’m glad it was so well-received.”

Barb worked on the purse for four hours per day after her regular work day, and spent many long weekends to make sure it was ready for the 2021 Fair. Even though there was significantly fewer people overall this year, she was happy to see a lot of people at the Village.

“We did pretty well at the Fair considering the limitations,” she said. “It was great to see everyone after not being able to go out for so long.”

Barb and Jessica sold a bunch of pieces at their booth in the Six Nations building – a spot they’ve been at for the past several years. Their creativity continues to push them to create new pieces that everyone will love.

“This purse was definitely the biggest piece I’ve ever worked on,” she said. “But I’ll keep coming up with new things.”