About the Artist

My name is Julie Thornton, and I am a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I am a Southeastern Woodlands artist with a focus in both traditional Pre- and Post-Contact textiles and weaving. I have continued mentorship under several Cherokee National Treasurers and other accomplished artists in textiles, baskets, weaving, and beadwork. I represented the Cherokee Nation as Junior Miss Cherokee, 2012-2013, Miss Cherokee, 2013-2014, Miss Oklahoma Indian Summer, 2015-2016, and multiple terms on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council. I was also a member of the award-winning Cherokee National Youth Choir. I served as the Youth Advocate Awardee for the Seventh Generation Conference in 2016, was awarded the “Cherokee Nation Phoenix’s 7 Feathers Award for Culture in 2020 and was awarded 2021 40 Under 40 Award for NCAIED. Over the last 15 years I have won numerous awards at venues across the United States, and the presence of Cherokee culture is found in all my work. I am a full-time textile artist and teach as an Adjunct Professor at Bacone College, advocating for Indigenous rights across Indian Country. I currently reside in Gore, OK. My rare neurological disease, HM, affects my eyesight, mobility, and memory. This disease causes me to become paralyzed on the right side of my body and have other “stroke” like symptoms. Other complications/comorbidities have included seizures, brain damage, loss of hearing, and chronic pain. Art is my way to deal with the medical issues I endure daily constructively. I strongly believe Traditional Medicine in the arts is attributed to my positive attitude and outlook on life. My main passion is creating and teaching the art of traditional Southeastern Woodlands feather capes. These time-consuming yet beautiful pieces reflect the mentorship I have experienced and my devotion. After research, trial, and error, I also accomplished the art of weaving the cape net base, which is the base for applying each feather. My grandmother taught me since the age of three and continues to create Traditional Regalia infused with my style and creativity. My grandparents, especially my Elisi Joyce, instilled a love of Cultural Knowledge and Tradition in me that has continued to flourish. In my early teens, I learned to finger-weave from my beloved uncle and mentor, Cherokee National Treasure Robert Lewis, who is also one of the biggest influences in my work. Having the opportunity to learn various art forms from a select group of master artisans, has instilled in me the importance and responsibility of teaching the next generation, as well as those to come after, our cultural items and customs. I have received several distinguished awards, including Judge’s Choice and the Bill Rabbit Legacy Award at the Cherokee Homecoming Show in 2019 and 2nd place in the Textiles category at the 2020 Cherokee National Holiday Art Show, and 1st Place at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum Cultural Items Category Art Under the Oaks Art Show in 2021, to name a few. I enjoy sewing and weaving 18th-century clothing and modern-day tear dresses, ribbon/stomp skirts, and ribbon shirts. In addition to finger-weaving, moccasins, and feather capes, and also enjoy beadwork and flat reed basketry. Vivian Garner-Cottrell, Traci Rabbit, Shan Goshorn, and Tonia Hogner-Weavel are several female artists I admire and who inspire my work. Southeastern Woodland Indians Folklore, nature, family, and ancestry also motivate my artistic messages. My business, WaterSpider Creations, is based on all the factors mentioned. I am a Keetoowah woman deeply rooted in her culture and has chosen to make her way through life by creating Cherokee art and sharing it with others. I sell my feather capes, ribbon skirts, jewelry, regalia, and graphic arts at various venues throughout the United States. My main goal is to invigorate more Indigenous artists and encourage youth to invest in their heritage. I believe that hardship and disabilities should not hinder artistic creation. Most of all, I want Southeastern Woodlands culture to continue to thrive, excel, and be passed on to the next seven generations. For this dream to become a reality, it is my responsibility to teach and pass on what knowledge I have acquired and reach out and advance my knowledge further. By doing so and encouraging others to do so, we can ensure a strong future for our cultural practices and arts.