Gift Shop Artists | Rochelle Goings

As a child, Rochelle Goings watched both her grandparents practice the ancient art of quillwork—a skill that had been passed down to them by their own ancestors. As members of the Red Cloud family, they served as keepers of this traditional Native art form. Today, as a working artist on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Rochelle is honored to carry on in their memory, creating her own unique and intricate quillwork pieces.

“My grandparents are the ones I really admired when I was a little girl. They were always creating quillwork and, eventually, I asked them to teach me,” says Rochelle. “They are no longer here, but they still inspire me. I want to make them proud.”

Long before glass beads were introduced by European traders, tribes across North America used brightly colored quills to adorn personal items like clothing and jewelry. Rochelle creates her pieces using the same traditional methods that have been used for thousands of years. She washes and dries porcupine quills, then dyes them in a range of vibrant colors. She cuts rawhide in the shape of the piece she is creating, and then begins carefully wrapping the rawhide, alternating colors to create bold, elaborate designs.

Each quillwork artist has their own unique style that sets them apart. Rochelle learned to use thin, colorful lines to make her work stand out. It took her years to perfect her form. Quillwork, she explains, requires an extraordinary amount of patience, and can take three to four days to create even one small item. But for her, it’s important to keep this traditional method alive.

“Some people think it is easy. But at the beginning, your pieces don’t look very good.” The more you work and practice, she explains, the more elegant and refined your work becomes. “The desire to create has to be within you; you have to grab it and want to do it.”

As an artist on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Rochelle earns her living from creating and selling her quillwork. She has been working with The Heritage Center for over a decade to market her art, and that connection has been critical in helping her support herself and her family. Having her work in the gift shop and available for purchase online has exposed her work to new buyers from across the country and around the world. 

“What I always want to be known for is my quillwork,” she said. “And The Heritage Center is there to support me whenever I need it.“


You can find more work by Lakota artists in The Heritage Center Gift Shop, both in-store and online:


Meet Our Artists - Shawn Espinosa, Parfleche


Meet Our Artists - Miranda Red Cloud, Porcupine Quillwork


Meet Our Artists - Amanda Simmons, Bead Work

Photos © 2017 Red Cloud Indian School, Inc.
last updated: April 1, 2017