Artist Story

I would describe my artwork as traditionally-based because it’s beadwork. However, I would also say it’s contemporary because I make bigger pieces with details that aren’t usually found in traditional work. My artwork varies from small jewelry pieces for kids, to great big pieces. I tend to make them very bright, eye-catching, and pretty!

I use all kinds of beads, the Japanese seed beads being my favourite to work with. I traditionally bead either on hide or a fabric called Pellon, which is a sturdier backing. I like to take pieces of clothing that we already have — let’s say a leather vest — and fancy them up a little bit. I love to turn everyday clothes into a little bit more of traditional regalia so that people have some fancy gear to wear whenever they have a special place to go to!

I learned to bead in school. I grew up in the heart of the Yukon, and we started First Nations’ class in 6th grade. I was lucky enough to be hooked to beading from that point on. My Grandma was a beader, so it’s just been something that I really enjoyed learning.

My Grandma was always my greatest source of inspiration. Growing up, I remember that everyone had a piece that she had made, like slippers or gloves. I always thought it was really special to own something that she made. So when I started beading, I would make things to offer as gifts. I would make necklaces for my mom, or a purse for a friend. I just wanted to carry on that legacy of showing your love with beads.

Making art is like therapy for me. When I bead, I focus on what I am doing and let my problems and stresses go away. When I’m done, I’ve created something beautiful which is extremely satisfying. What I love the most about creating is that I get to share what I do with other people. I love to see how they react or interpret something.

I sold my first item around 2019. Someone was looking for a pair of slippers with sugar skulls and that was something I was known for and specialized in. I gave it a try and the person really liked them, which made me realize that I could make art for other people and make some revenue through my creations.

Beading is my passion. I really love how I feel when I create — happy and connected to my culture. I didn’t grow up with my culture. I didn’t know my language. So, as an adult, being able to do my art and learn traditional knowledge feels very empowering. It gives me a feeling of inner strength that connects me to every member of my family who has done this before. It makes me really proud to be Gwitch’in and to share my art with people.

Artist Bio: 

Cynthia lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. She learned to bead while growing up in Mayo, Yukon. A proud Gwitch’in beader, Cynthia makes art to carry on tradition and to spend some time with herself. Being a stay-at-home mom since 2017, beading has become a hobby and a means of income for Cynthia. She prepares her own designs and template before beading them into reality. She’ll often receive special requests from her kids, which she’ll be eager to bead for them. Cynthia is working on getting enough pieces together to apply for a showing at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. She also dreams of a small place to call her own where she could bead and offer classes.

Last Updated: November 4, 2021

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