Barbara Lepine

South Slave
Fort Smith
Primary Art Type: 

Artist Story

I make beadwork and embroidery work, including moccasins, mukluks and mitts. I use commercial tan hide or traditional tan hides, depending on what people request. I love to use beaver fur, which is my favourite because it lasts much longer.

My mother used to sew a lot. She was sewing parkas, mukluks, mitts, gloves, you name it! I was much younger back then, and when I should have been learning as a teenager, I did not. When I was grounded, my mom would have me sit at home and bead with her! It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s, at some point between Christmas and New Year, that I decided to get back to beadwork. Somebody had a hide for sale and I jumped on the opportunity. I learned by cutting patterns for uppers until I got them right.

I’m Cree and Ojibwe. Making art connects me to my mother. It’s that connection that keeps me going. She would always be sewing for others, especially just before Christmas. I do that too now. I like to help other people when I can. I spend most of my time sewing and working on orders, except in the Fall, when I am out hunting.

I normally bead flowers, but I can do other designs too. I have so many beads to choose from. When I pick out colours, I want to choose an outline that will make the pattern stand out, and then I just fill it in. It’s the same process with beading and embroidery. Everybody likes different shades, so sometimes I’ll work with people’s favourite colours.

I tan moose hides too. I do hide tanning courses usually in the Spring. I invite everyone to watch us. It’s not an easy task. It is a lot of work but it’s very satisfying to see the end result, especially when the hide is soft and easy to sew with. Tanning hides is certainly not about making money, it’s about the satisfaction that comes from using traditionally-tanned hides.

I used to work from 8:30 to 5:00 every day. I’d get home and I’d sew until 2:00 in the morning. I would stay up late, get up, go to work the next day, and after supper, would start right back up again! When I start something, I like to see how it will look once it’s finished. When I’m sewing I don’t think about anything else. It keeps me from worrying about everything. There are things you cannot change anyway, so why sit there and worry about it when I can do something I love to do?

Artist Bio: 

Barb lives in Fort Smith. Her artwork is available for purchase in town, or through social media. She prides herself in selling items that are up to her standards. Because she enjoys beading and embroidery so much, Barb never counts the hours that go into making her art. She also likes to share her knowledge and skills through various workshops and classes whenever people ask. She is thrilled to know that young people are interested in learning these skills and coming up with original ideas of their own.

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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