Gerald Welsh, 51, who has been incarcerated for 16 years, said he creates bead crafts for therapeutic reasons.
“I find peace of mind and it is also a part of my religious belief,” said Welsh.
Doing bead work sent him on a “whole different journey,” he said, as it has taken him through self-discovery and helped him to embrace his roots. Welsh is one quarter Cherokee Indian.
“I started to learn about my native heritage,” he said. “Learning how to pray and use traditional medicines and songs made me realize how much I’ve missed about my roots.”
Welsh said that doing beadwork not only supports him in prison, he’s also able to donate to various charities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital through the assistance of PATH (Prison Art Touching Hearts).
Many of Welsh’s crafts have been exhibited within San Quentin and he’s gotten numerous compliments from the inside community as well as the free world.
When asked which item has been most significant, he said, “The rosette, which is a tribal eagle wrapped around a turquoise rock,” and added that the eagle represents that one can “get closer to heaven without passing over to heaven.” He said the rosette could be interpreted as a collaboration between his native and Christian ways.
He said his biggest project took 36 hours.
Creating the Wounded Warrior belt buckle was “very complicated,” he said, but he was inspired and “amazed” by all the positive feedback when the final product showed a soldier holding an M-16 rifle with the American flag waving in the background.
He’s currently working on a purse dedicated to his mother, who passed away on January 24, 2009. Its straps have fire colors. There are four pink hearts on its leather body to represent her four children. It will be given to his sister, who keeps his beadwork for display on “Tjsoneofakind Beadwork Facebook.”