story and photos
by: angela brandt
by: stacy mantle
As several women fawn over a sparkling beaded purse adorned with colorful flowers, the woman who made the handbag shies away and looks uncomfortable. It's not that the artist isn't proud of her work, but she knows how many hours she toiled while making the purse by hand.
“I don't like to show that off because then people want me to make them one, and that took a year,” Bara Buffalo-Hide said. “The most I could hope to get from it is $300, and I'm not going to work a year for that.”
Buffalo-Hide will have one featured artist room at the Artitudes Gallery through August. Artitudes' second featured artist room will this month display works from artists who are part of the co-op, including Frank Miller, Beryl Arvin, Jeanette Williams, Magaret Hayes and Ginnie Streeper.
The gallery didn't have another artist for the second room, so “we decided to feature ourselves,” Streeper said. Next month, a featured artist will display work in the second room.
Buffalo-Hide has been selling her goods since 1945. “I've been doing this thing for so long, I can probably do this in my sleep,” she said while setting up her display.
“We'd park my mom's car on the side of the highway, put out a Pendleton blanket and put out our buckles and whatnot,” she said. “In two or three hours, we'd have a couple hundred dollars, which was a lot back then. That's how it started out.”
The Dodson artist travels around the state selling her goods, which include her beadwork and paintings, and various other pieces made by Native American artists all over Montana.
She works mainly with cut beads, which she said are the most prized among American Indians.
Buffalo-Hide makes necklaces and earrings by hand. She said the earrings are her “bread and butter,” and each pair is unique. Most of her designs are inspired by Indian culture, but she also makes some earrings in the shape of roses and teddy bears. Buffalo-Hide said she tries to make jewelry that appeals to all ages.
Buffalo-Hide also makes clocks, wall hangings and other artwork using cedar.
“I like to paint on cedar wood. So many paint on canvas,” she said.
Everything in Buffalo-Hide's display is for sale, but some pieces have sentimental value - including a sweet grass basket her mother made 50 years ago. The piece is priced at $1,350.
“My mom made it, that's why I put such a high price on it,” she said. “If I don't really want to sell (an item), I put a high price on it, and if they still want to buy it, I'll sell it.”
Buffalo-Hide started doing beadwork when she was 8. She will be 70 this year.
Her adoptive mother, who raised her from age 3, taught Buffalo-Hide how to work with beads. Buffalo-Hide grew up in Browning and in a few places on the West Coast.
Buffalo-Hide and her husband, Bill, have been married for 45 years and have six sons. She also displays and sells the works of two of her sons. Adam Elk Boy hitches barrettes and key chains out of horsehair and Frank Running Fisher does work with wooly mammoth tusks, she said.
For the last five years, she has occasionally displayed her work at the Holiday Village Shopping Center.
“I really like Havre. Why do I come to Havre to sell? - What's in Dodson?” she said with a laugh.
“We like Dodson because it's peaceful and quiet. It's perfect for an artist,” she added.
The artist said her husband helps her with her crafts. She'll do the outline drawing and he'll paint.
“He calls it color by numbers,” Buffalo-Hide said.
She makes customized items for people, picking beads with their favorite hues.
“Colors are very precious in the Indian way. Your favorite color makes you feel good. We try to make people feel good at an affordable price,” Buffalo-Hide said.
If the prices at Artitudes aren't affordable for visitors, the cooperative does offer layaway.
In the gallery's second room, the theme of the artists' display is “Waiting for Spring.”
“We have the streets of Paris being flooded in one painting. We have the weeping wall at Sun Point,” Streeper said. “We have a red cardinal,” which she painted. “He's waiting for it to quit snowing.”
Like the cardinal, Streeper is looking forward to spring so she can paint outdoors.
“I like to paint whatever moves me the most at the moment, whether it be a bird, a child or a landscape,” she said.
Unlike Buffalo-Hide, Streeper started painting after her children were raised and she retired.
“I took up art after all my closets were cleaned,” the retired school teacher said. “I finally had the time.”
She attended several art workshops before she really got into painting. The Havreite started with oil paints but grew to love watercolor.
“When I did watercolors, I liked the immediacy of results. They dry quickly and you're done,” Streeper said.
She is a member of the Montana Watercolor Society and the Havre Art Association.
Streeper has taught art to area youths and also worked with Lincoln-McKinley Primary students on a mural at the school.
She has three kids of her own and six grandchildren. She has been married to Clarke Streeper for 52 years.
“How about that. That's a little unusual isn't it?” she said of her time with Clarke.
The Streepers have ventured all over the country and traveled to the United Kingdom to wander through art galleries.
Her paintings have hung in Havre churches and banks, and she has displayed her work in Miles City, Helena, Lewistown and Great Falls.
A First Friday reception will be held for the artists today from 6 to 8 p.m at the Artitudes Gallery in the Atrium Mall.