Catherine Blondin

Fort Simpson
Primary Art Type: 

Artist Story

I work with traditional mediums such as beads, hides, quills and tufting, to make jewelry. A main part of my journey as a Dene artist is about reclamation. I am a teacher by trade, but I took time off in 2021 to pursue my Masters, which will be officially completed in May of 2022. I started selling my art as an additional income while I was studying, and it ended up bringing many great opportunities and connections my way. It has been quite an interesting journey!

I’ve been beading and sewing since I was a kid. After graduating from high school in 2001, I decided to go to the University of Alberta. Once I got my education degree and Native Studies degree, I decided to come back North to teach in different communities. Every community I’ve been to held a beading or sewing circle — which I would always join! I learned a lot from family members and Elders while growing up, but I also learned a lot from the Elders within those sewing circles.

I mostly make earrings in a wide range of sizes. Amongst other things, I make round traditional looking earrings with quills, small, beaded studs, or triangular beaded earrings with moosehide tassels. I have figured out a few signature styles, but I love to continue to explore with different materials. I like to have the freedom to create whatever ideas come to mind.

I create my art because of a strong desire to reconnect with and reclaim my culture. My dad is a residential school survivor, and even though he speaks Slavey, I never got to learn. I learned what I could about beading from my grandma, but she passed away when I was really young. I ended up learning many skills by watching my aunties over the years. Now that I have two children of my own, I feel like it’s up to me to pass down our culture and traditions. This is my big driving force, especially since so much has been lost already through colonization.

I like to make pieces that look traditional, with a twist. I want people to recognize my own distinct style. I get a lot of inspiration from doing cultural activities like hide tanning, medicine picking, fishing or harvesting. I get inspired by children too. My 10 years-old daughter is an artist as well. She’ll come up to me with drawings and designs to try out together. As an elementary teacher and a mother, I find that kids look at the world in such a beautiful way. When we are out on the land, they are always able to point out things that I missed.

Being creative brings me this sense of calm and peace. Having a creative outlet is good for my mental and spiritual health. It makes me feel connected to my Ancestors, to all the people that came before me. My art also allows me to give back to my community. When I bead, I feel that I am right where I am supposed to be!

Artist Bio: 

Catherine is from Lı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ (Fort Simpson). Teacher by trade, nature-enthusiast, and talented Dene artist, Catherine is currently learning how to tan hides with Elders in her home community and is actively planning to learn Dene Zhatie in the near future through the Government of the Northwest Territories MAP program. Through her art, Catherine is sharing and reclaiming her culture, whether by offering pieces for fundraising purposes whenever possible or by teaching beading classes to kids in school. She is particularly inspired by the resurgence of Indigenous artists coming forward with new mediums, new techniques, and new materials. Catherine sells her pieces online through her social media accounts under her company’s name @Onte Sews — based on her traditional Dene name.

Last Updated: May 23, 2023

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