Suzanne Boucher

Region: 
South Slave
Primary Art Type: 

Artist Story

When I make art or jewelry pieces, it helps me stay connected to my grandmother. She raised me in the bush, like she raised her children. She’s the one who taught me how to sew and how to make traditional pieces. When I create, I use stuff that she would have in front of her: beads, moose hide, stroud, canvas. Even the wiring that I use — which is rabbit snare — is because that’s what my grandmother would have in front of her. When I use the materials that she was surrounded with in her daily life, I feel like I stay connected to her and all her teachings.

I love to share my knowledge with my daughter, Skye. Since she was little, beading has been our quality time. She wanted to learn how to sew from a young age, so we’d bead little purses and other small items. Once I got into making earrings, she got interested in learning how to make those as well. I taught her about all the different types of edging and materials she could use. I feel really happy to be able to pass my grandma’s teachings to my daughter.

One year, for her birthday, Skye asked for a sewing machine. I got her one and showed her how to use it. I teach her what I know, but she creates her own pieces. We now have a beading and sewing business together, called K’estuwé Pieces. My son also started making stud earrings out of antlers and willows. I’m teaching my children to put the work in to get what they want. It also makes them feel accomplished when they do something on their own.

My daughter and I are most known for our moose hoops. We use hypoallergenic materials, like stainless steel, sterling silver or 18 carat gold. We put strips of moose hide on the hoop and we bead the designs along the edging. We do full moose hoops, fully covered in hide, and half hoops, where we still see the colours of the hoop itself.  We sometimes use antlers or fish vertebrae in our designs too, which are always locally sourced from the NWT. I receive those materials from family members, gifted or traditionally traded. That’s how my grandparents survived, so it’s still very important for me to incorporate those practices in our process.

When I create my pieces, I just envision how I want things to turn out. My grandmother taught me to figure out how to do things without patterns. It was amazing what she could do without even taking measurements! Because I learned that way, I work things out as I go, even if it takes me a couple of tries. To me, it’s overwhelming to plan intricate pieces. That’s why I like smaller pieces, simple designs, and neutral colours.

What I like the most about making art is that it’s time set aside for me, it’s my medicine. If I need to relax, it just slows me down and helps me concentrate on something else. It makes me feel connected to my grandmother, my cultural roots, my traditions. I’m so grateful that I get to do what I do with my daughter. One day, I’d love to open a culturally oriented space — like a store for artists to share their work or a summer camps in the bush for kids. I’d love to offer a space where we can practice our culture together, as a family. I’m thinking ahead, and I know K’estuwé Pieces is the first step in that direction!

Artist Bio: 

Suzanne is from Deninu Kųę́ First Nation (Fort Resolution). She now lives in Hay River with her family. Suzanne grew up speaking Chipewyan and learning traditional skills in the bush with her grandparents until she had to go to school. Suzanne loves to work with her hands on various projects, including making poplar wreaths and ornaments with her husband. Throughout her life, she created earrings, necklaces and other traditional items as gifts for friends and family. She has been selling her art since 2019, through K’estuwé Pieces (meaning “poplar lake”), a business she started with her daughter, Skye. They can be found on Facebook, Instagram and on their website: www.kestuwepieces.ca.

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

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