• Bailey Stefan-Houle

Indigenous Beadworkers You Should Know

Beadwork is a huge part of Indigenous cultures across Turtle Island for thousands of years, with colourful embroidery adorning Indigenous fashion from shirts and vests to fire bags and moccasins. In 2021, the most popular form of beadwork is definitely beaded earrings, with beadworkers crafting gorgeous designs to adorn your ears.


I know what you’re thinking: If beading is such a huge part of Indigenous culture, can I wear beadwork if I’m not Indigenous? The answer is yes! Beadwork is for everyone to enjoy, however please ensure that you are purchasing your beadwork from Indigenous artisans.

Here are nine amazing Indigenous beadwork shops from across Canada you can support to help keep this important artform alive.


The Flowered Raven

Left: The artist behind the art. Right: A look at The Flowered Raven’s fall collection


Parker is a Gwich’in-Métis artist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Sāskwatān). She is the creative vision, maker, and owner behind The Flowered Raven. A nature lover, Parker’s designs are mostly drawn from Canadian nature, but she is looking to incorporate her great-grandmother’s vintage patterns in future collections.

SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


PARKER: I don't think there was really one reason why I started beading, instead there were a number of factors. Firstly, a lot of my knowledge of my aboriginal culture and artwork was limited, and my family's heritage is something that really interests me. Along with this, my great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother did beadwork, and I feel that this is a way I can expand my knowledge and connect with my family history and Gwich'in/Métis culture. Another reason why I wanted to start beading involves my love of art, and wanting to eventually support myself by doing something that I love. Even as a kid, I have always wanted to be an artist, and I think it is so amazing that I am able to create something that makes others feel beautiful.

SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


PARKER: Beadwork is a time-consuming work of art that anyone can show support for. Whether it's a positive comment or like on social media, or a direct purchase, supporting an Indigenous artist motivates this traditional artform to revive and stay alive.

Hold onto summer with a pair of sunflowers hanging from your ears. Shop The Flowered Raven here: https://www.thefloweredraven.com/

Indijah Bead

Left: Indijah Bead is owned and operated by Desiree out of Vancouver, BC.

Right: Strawberries are what started it all for Indijah Bead.


Desiree hails from Lower Nicola Indian Band in British Columbia and calls the Coast Salish territory Vancouver occupies home. Drawing inspiration from her family, other beadworkers in the beading community, and from within herself, she is the talent behind Indijah Bead. Desiree makes both earrings and larger pieces like medallions, necklaces, and hair pieces with amazing edging and intricate designs.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


DESIREE: It all started when my Aunt sent me a pair of strawberry beaded earrings she liked and I decided to try and recreate them for her birthday. I instantly fell in love with beading. It helped me guide all the energy I was putting into my thoughts into my hands, helping me reconnect to my body and, most importantly, to myself.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


DESIREE: I’d like people to understand the time and care that goes into beadwork, that it is medicine, and that a part of the artist is in the art. The amount of time, dedication and skill that I put into this beadwork, the emotions I'm going through while making beadwork stay with me. I know how I felt while making it. People come to me in pain like, for example right now I had just finished making some poppies for a fellow Indigenous woman whose grandfather served and didn't get the acceptance or recognition that he deserved for what he did. This time is really hard for her and she wanted something that could help her honor his memory. It is such an honour for someone to share that with me and trust me to make them something that they will cherish for a lifetime and that they will put their own energy into. And like when they think when they're looking at the puppy, she's thinking of her grandfather, and that's so precious and like, just can't be compared to anything else. I just would like non-Indigenous to know to honour the work, even if they fully don't understand why it is the way it is.


Trust me — you need a pair of those beaded strawberries. Shop Indijah Bead at www.indijahbead.com and make sure to give Desiree a follow on Instagram at @indijahbead!


Metisgirlbeads

Left: Lisa is the vision behind Metisgirlbeads. Right: Fire colours feature prominently in Lisa’s work.


Metisgirlbeads is the creative vision and work of Métis artisan Lisa, who operates her business out of Edmonton (amiskwacîwâshkahikan). Her stunning work features strong inspiration from fire, stemming from her deep connection to her roots, as women are traditionally the fire keepers of the home in Métis culture. She also pays tribute to the strong women who came before her, by sprinkling in her nohkôm and chapan’s favourite colours.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


LISA: I have been beading for approximately nine years now. I started to reclaim my roots, since nobody else in my family beaded, other than nimosom who passed when I was six months old.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


LISA: How much it is embedded in my roots, in my body. I was born with this gift. Appreciate all the beauty that is in this work. It is not just pretty. It is pure, it is love, it is literally a part of who I am.”


Adorn your body with Lisa’s fiery jewellery. Shop Metisgirlbeads at www.facebook.com/metisgirlbeads and keep up with her latest projects on Instagram at @metisgirlbeads.


FRNGE

Left: Julie-Anne operates FRNGE on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.

Right: Julie-Anne’s drop earrings from her current collection features real pearl centers.


Métis-Dakelh artist Julie-Anne creates beadwork with a twist in Vancouver, BC on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. Her gorgeous work heavily features stones as a physical reminder of what the land offers us and how we must reciprocate.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


JULIE-ANNE: I got into beading in my early education — I must have been in grade three. I had a strong connection with one of my school counsellors who was also Indigenous. She mentored me through a difficult transitional time and helped me feel okay with my identity and to further connect with it. Part of how she did was by teaching me how to bead. Myself and a few other Indigenous students would spend every lunch hour beading with her. I didn’t know it at the time, but her teachings would become some of my most cherished memories.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


JULIE-ANNE: Beadwork, and particularly Indigenous beadwork, is so special of course because of its handmade nature, but less obviously because of the history and tradition behind each beader. Each beader has a story of how they came to bead and what beadwork means to them; they tell those stories through their work. Beading is also medicine for a lot of Indigenous artists! These pieces are meaningful, thoughtful, and provide a source of healing.

They are also very time consuming to make and require a lot of forethought. I’ve gotten pretty quick, but every pair of earrings takes around three hours to complete and that’s not even including the designing!


Fancy getting a little traditional with your beaded earrings and incorporating some stone into your budding collection? Shop FRNGE at www.frnge.ca and follow Julie-Anne on Instagram at @_frnge.


MONDAY MAY JEWELRY

Left: Monday is the brilliant maker behind Monday May Jewelry. Right: Run, don’t walk, to get your hands on Monday May Jewelry’s Fall/Winter collection.


Monday is a Secwepemc beader creating dazzling designs in New Westminster, BC on Coast Salish territory. Their pieces take inspiration both from traditional Indigenous colours and the colours of West Africa, and her work is truly breathtaking.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beadwork?


MONDAY: I got into beading earlier this year in February. Initially I started beading as a way to ground myself and stay on top of my mental health during the winter months of the pandemic. I needed some kind of artistic outlet and having extra income was the cherry on top.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


MONDAY: Investing in beadwork directly from Indigenous artists is such a beautiful way to divest from this culture of capitalism we’ve all been caught up in for so long. Not only are you getting heirloom pieces to pass down (made with good intentions), you will be supporting the livelihood of marginalized artists working to bring positive change into the world.


I know you want your ears to sparkle in the light, I just know you do, and with Monday’s gorgeous fringe earrings, they can. Shop Monday May Jewelry at mondaymayjewelry.com and find Monday on Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook at @mondaymayjewelry.


KAYSAWAYSA

Left: To Harlee, beading is a way of expressing herself where words fail.

Right: Would a rose by any other name be as sweet? We don’t know, but this beaded rose sure is gorgeous!


Hailing from White Bear First Nation and crafting stunning works of art in Edmonton, AB (amiskwacîwâshkahikan), Harlee is creating and crafting the jewelry you see glittering at Kaysawaysa. From the coulees in Lethbridge to the dry prairie landscape, her Southern Alberta heritage influences her affinity for a good neutral palette.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


HARLEE: In 2017, I took a beading workshop with artist Jean Marshall that sparked my interest and motivated me to learn more. I started by watching YouTube tutorials. At that time, I wasn’t aware of anyone in my family that had beaded. It wasn’t until I started sharing what I had been making with my grandma and she shared stories of how when she was living in Southern Alberta, she would make beaded moccasins on the Piikani Nation. She also had an amazing collection of beadwork. I think beading was part of my blood memory. It wasn’t until I started sharing with my grandma that I realized my attraction and admiration for beadwork stemmed from ancestors. My grandma, Betty McArthur, has since passed. I am eternally grateful to have inherited her collection of beadwork. I have her beadwork displayed in my apartment. Seeing these pieces everyday is a constant reminder of the connection I have to her and my ancestors before her.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


HARLEE: I don’t have one thing I’d like to share with non-Indigenous people specifically. I do have one thing I would like to share with anyone who is reading this, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. When I look at my grandma’s beadwork, I see the immense amount of love that went into these pieces. These pieces weren’t created to make an income, they were created for someone as a sign of love and respect.


I do make beadwork for others to buy. But much of my time beading is spent making pieces for loved ones, or individuals who have helped me personally. I choose to gift them with a piece of beadwork to express my utmost gratitude and appreciation for them, in a way that words alone couldn’t convey.


A piece from Kaysawaysa is a piece made with the utmost love. Shop Kaysawaysa at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/Kaysawaysa and be sure to follow her work on Instagram at @kaysawaysa.


TAANSHI STUDIOS

Left: Biliana draws inspiration from the sky for her beadwork. Right: Everyday would be cloudy with a chance of sun (just like Alberta weather) with these alluring earrings.


Cree-Métis beadworker and maker Biliana is the genius behind the sweet designs at Taanshi Studios. Working and creating in Vancouver on Coast Salish territory, her pieces are inspired by her day-to-day travels around the city from the clouds in the sky to the flowers in the grass.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


BILIANA: I first started beading when I was about seven years old. I was at this history museum with my grandma and up in this little room, there was a kids activity where there was a woman teaching loom beading. I liked it so much, I stayed there for like an hour or two, telling my grandma to go away and leave me there until she finally pulled me away. I did some of that when I was younger, but ended up stopping just because, you know, I didn't have money. So I had like six colors and I felt a little constrained by what I could make on a loom. Then, in 2019, I’d been working as a professional photographer full time for a couple years and I needed a different creative outlet to relax on the weekends or after work. So I went back to beading.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


BILIANA: Beadwork is so much more than just jewelry. It’s a cultural practice. It’s medicine. It’s a meditation. It’s one way that I’ve been using to feel connected with my culture.


Be pretty-in-pink or dark and stormy with a pair of clouds from Taanshi Studios. Shop the collection at www.etsy.com/taanshistudios and be sure to follow Biliana on Instagram and Tik Tok at @taanshistudios.


Métis Margaret

Left: Beading is something Margaret and her mother love to share. Right: Margaret’s designs go beyond jewelry and into the traditional beaded embroidery present in a lot of Métis art.


Métis Margaret is a Michif beadworker hailing from and creating in Winnipeg on the traditional lands of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene, as well as the birthplace and homeland of the Métis Nation. She loves to create everything from traditional beaded fire bags to Drake pins to bolo ties, with her most recent work being inspired by the prairie iris that grows all over Manitoba.


SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beading?


MARGARET: I got into beading through both my mom and another Winnipeg artist, Bronwyn Butterfield. They both attend this beading circle in Winnipeg. My mom had been asking me to come with her and said she would teach me because my mom is a beadwork artist as well. It wasn't until Bronwyn mentioned that she was also going, that [I went]. Ever since then, I've just been doing it. That was 2019. I started that winter and I've been doing it ever since.


SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


MARGARET: This is such a big question. I've been thinking about it all day. I just saw LorBrand's post about how if you're non-Indigenous and you're purchasing beadwork, then you have to go a step further as well and educate yourself about Indigenous values and Indigenous history. And I really just really like that.I think that's so true. It's one of the easy ways to support Indigenous artists just because you can find so much beadwork in so many price variables.


From French-Canadian irises to daisies, cherries, and strawberries, Métis Margaret has something for everyone. Her orders are currently closed, but follow her on Instagram at @metismargaret and keep your eyes peeled for the next drop!


Neyats’e Beads

Neyats’e Beads utilizes both beads and animal hide in their gorgeous jewelry.

Neyats’e Beads is lovingly owned and operated by Carrier Dakelh sisters Kristina and Samantha Bray, and their honourary sister, Métis Brandi Delaine. The sisters create their beautiful pieces in Winnipeg, on Treaty 1 territory and the Métis homeland. Inspired by everything from the sunset to a cute top at a shop, every piece from Neyats’e Beads contains natural elements in addition to glass beads, with animal hides, quills, shells, and caribou hair adorning their work.

SixtyOneTen: How did you get into beadwork?


KRISTINA: We all began our beading journey together! We started during the pandemic in early 2020. Originally huge fans of beadwork, we set out to learn the teachings and culture behind creating beautiful beaded art. The Instagram beading community is another reason we felt comfortable enough to learn to bead, everyone is so welcoming and helpful! Through beading we have made many friends and have been met with so many new opportunities!

SixtyOneTen: What should non-Indigenous people know about beadwork?


KRISTINA: I want non-Indigenous people to know that beadwork is for them too! If consumed responsibly, everyone is welcome to own and wear Indigenous-made beadwork. It truly is an art!


Decorate your ears with both fringe and stud earrings from the stunning Neyats’e Beads. Follow them on Instagram at @neyatsebeads to purchase from their shop.

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