Katrina Mitten

Lesson: Nature As Inspiration

Great Lakes bead work embroidery is a technique where you’re sewing directly onto a fabric or onto leather. Our designs are drawn from the world around us, where we are living and the things that we see. We have floral patterns, because we live in the woodland area, the Great Lakes area. We have a lot of florals and herbs and plants and trees and leaves. All those things that you’ll see outside, we will translate that onto our bead work.

–Katrina Mitten, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma

Themes: Continuation & Relation
Learning Objective: Like artist Katrina Mitten, students will create art inspired by nature and the world around them.

Background Information

Artists have always been inspired by nature. Drawings and paintings of animals and plants that are thousands of years old adorn cave walls. Painters have been painting landscapes for hundreds of years. Birds, rabbits, deer, horses, forests, mountains, rivers, oceans— nature is a great source of inspiration for artists.

Katrina Mitten has a deep connection and relationship with the place she grew up, the traditional homelands of the Myaamia peoples. The flowers and plants in this area – the Great Lakes region – are important to Katrina and inspired the beadwork designs on the cradleboard you see in the photograph above. Take a closer look at Katrina’s cradleboard. Do you recognize any similarities? Why do you think Katrina chose to use the colors she did in this piece?



Spend some time outside studying the things around you. Look at them closely; what do you see? Notice colors, shapes, and textures. Pick out one special thing that catches your eye— a leaf, rock or a flower. Maybe you spot something bigger—a robin on a fence or hundreds of maple seeds spinning through the air in a park. Do you see clouds reflected in a puddle on a playground or a squirrel scampering up a tree? Are there ducks paddling across a pond or a flower sprouting from a crack in the sidewalk. Nature is all around, even in the middle of a city. Wherever it is, it can inspire art.

Make a drawing of what you see. If you were going to turn the drawing into some other type of art, what would it be— a painting, a sculpture, or maybe beadwork like Katrina Mitten’s? How about writing or telling a story or poem about it? Composing a song?

Use your drawing as the basis for some other piece of art that you make—something to look at, something to read, something to listen to— it can be anything you want. For artists, drawings are often the starting point for turning inspiration into art.

Words you need to know


A reciprocal connection between two or more things, thoughts, ideas, or people.


A flat board to which a baby, wrapped tightly in a blanket, is strapped. The cradleboard can be carried, worn like a backpack, propped up on the ground, or tied to a horse or sled— always keeping the baby safe.


Land covered with trees and other woody vegetation

All Lessons By Katrina