Tammy Neal

Artist Story

I sew and I bead. I also make wire-wrapped jewelry and rosaries. When I sew, I make traditional items, like cardholders, slippers, mitts, and gloves. I use beaver or rabbit fur as well as traditionally tanned hide when available.

I learned to sew from my grandmother when I was a child. I would sit and watch her and she taught me what she knew. I learned how to sew traditional items starting in 2001 in Fort Liard through workshops, Elders and sister in laws. While working as the Community Justice Coordinator, we would sometimes offer sewing lessons when we went out on the land with the kids and Elders. We would teach the kids how to prepare hides, beaver or rabbit furs. I was also able to participate and learn too.

I sew all traditional items by hand. I make beaded cardholders and earrings. I have sewed gauntlets, fur mitts, seal skin mitts, and baby wrap-arounds. I typically bead flower designs, and I like to work with opaque dark blue beads the most. Many beading patterns were given to me by one of the Elders in Fort Liard. Sometimes, I will sew with my mother-in-law’s patterns. One day, I would like to come up with my own signature patterns.

I am learning how to tan my own hides. My husband made me a flesher out of a moose bone. My mother-in-law has been teaching me and I have learned about half of the process at this point, including removing the hair, fleshing and scraping the hide. We have worked on two hides together. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it!

I believe my grandmothers are Indigenous, but we grew up in a place where people wouldn’t talk about or connect with their culture. I never really knew my true heritage because of this. I do feel connected to my husbandʼs family and his Dene culture. I am grateful to have learned a lot from his culture.

My daughter is my biggest inspiration. She also learned how to sew with the Elders when we were in Fort Liard. She was at the perfect age to learn all these skills. Now, she can make anything! She is fast and her beadwork is really good. I’m so inspired by how quickly she learned and how motivated she is to try different things.

My mother-in-law inspires me too. She is tiny, but tough! She’s been tanning hides and sewing for so many years. She even sews with traditional sinew that she makes herself from the back-strap of the moose. I would like to learn this too, someday.

What I like the most about sewing is how relaxing it feels to me. My art practice is therapeutic. I also love that you never really know how things will turn out. Either way, at the end of the day, I feel proud about what I accomplished.

Artist Bio: 

Tammy lives and creates in Enterprise. She sells her traditional items and artwork privately. She plans on sewing and selling more items in the near future through her new gift shop at Mackenzie Cabins, as well as online.

Last Updated: May 23, 2023
South Slave

Artist Gallery