Chickasaw weaver Beverly Callahan, 74, is living proof it’s never too late to follow your passion.
Callahan likens herself to another late-blooming, famous artist whose career began at a time most folks have long retired.
“I’m kind of like Grandma Moses,” she said. “I started late in life.”
Callahan’s career began very simply in Waco, Texas, with a weaving class where she learned the basics of the craft.
“I only had a little-bitty loom about 5- to 6-inches wide. It was very tiny,” she laughed.
In 2003 she forsook the Lone Star State and moved to Sulphur, Oklahoma, where she eventually met storied Chickasaw weaver Margaret Wheeler. It was then her true education began, and she proved herself an adept student.
Just over five years later Callahan began producing items that today are similar to those she’s marketing at the Artesian Online Art Market.
Artwork from many Chickasaw and other Southeastern Indian artists can be viewed at ArtesianArtsFestival.com now through July 31.
The kind of weaving Callahan produces is on a loom at which she sits, peddling (called treading) with her feet and using her hands to create colorful designs.
“I love patterns,” she said. “We have pattern samples, and I mix them all up. I don’t stay true to one pattern.”
“I make ruanas (a shorter version of a poncho with a slit up its middle rather than a single hole at the top), ponchos, jackets, shawls, scarves and sometimes little purses.”
Shawls can sell for $350; ruanas average about $500.
“The last one I made was an extra-large one for a man for $1,000,” she said.
Her workplace is at ARTesian Gallery & Studios’ Mahota Studio in Sulphur (currently closed due to the pandemic), where she works part time and at her own pace.
“Sometimes I work six days a week. It just depends on what I have going on. I’m probably one of the slowest people there because I want everything to look perfect,” she says.
“I don’t have any grandchildren, and I’m single. I spend a lot of time weaving, because I don’t have a lot of outside family around me,” she said. “I feel blessed.”