Photography courtesy of Ali Launer.

Ali Launer

The Beauty Is in the Beading

by Geoff Lambeth

Colored stones, beads and metals are staples in New Mexico’s colorful art traditions. Ali Launer, a local artist who specializes in beaded animal skulls, combines these materials to bring her artwork to life. Says Launer, “It’s an honor to be able to bring that animal back to life using color and texture and different shades of beads.”

Launer uses glass beads, sterling silver, and precious and semiprecious stones. “The intention is to build up the colors,” she explains. “It’s like layering paints, but it’s layering beads instead.” By playing with textures, finishes and bead sizes, Launer makes each piece unique, and each evokes a different feeling.

Artist Ali Launer works on a beaded skull
Ali Launer meticulously transforms a skull into a work of art.

Ever since moving to Santa Fe in 1993, Launer has been inspired by the state’s Southwestern landscapes. “The sky and the environment in New Mexico are just so beautiful. I absolutely fell in love with them,” she says.  “Nature’s my thing,” she continues. “I’m always seeing different shadows, the way a leaf falls, or the skin of a lizard as it slithers away.”

Launer began working with beads at age twelve. “First thing I ever made was a beaded bikini,” she recalls. “I started incorporating precious stones later on, and then it evolved into using sterling silver and creating jewelry.” Launer began experimenting after purchasing her first animal skull at the old Santa Fe Flea Market. “Being in the Southwest and being a beader, why not combine animal skulls with the beads?” she wondered.

Artist Ali Launer
Artist Ali Launer.
Detail from a beaded skull by Ali Launer
Detail from a beaded skull.

Launer’s work has a spiritual quality, balancing the cycles of life and death. “I hope that people really feel the energy of the animal,” she says. “I hope that they feel a rebirth in the actual skull. It’s honoring the skull itself,” Launer says, “to bring it back to life in a new vision.”

More of Ali Launer’s work can be found at Canyon Road Contemporary Art.

Geoff Lambeth

Geoff Lambeth is a writer and photographer based in Santa Fe. He spends his free time backpacking, traveling to new places and enjoying old music. Passionate about pursuing under reported issues and sharing untold stories, Geoff aims to showcase a range of experiences and viewpoints through his work.


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