Featured Artist: Chief Lady Bird

I have nothing but mad respect for Chief Lady Bird as an artist and friend. During my travels in Toronto earlier this winter, I made it a point to go see her at an art & craft fair, and she was amazingly open to me being all “I like your work, be my friend.” I had first noticed her work last year, and was hoping to have her on as a featured artist, so I’m extremely happy this all worked out.

Introducing the eva-talented, Chief Lady Bird…


1. If you could collaborate with one other artist, who would it be and why?

Outside of the collective of artists that I currently collaborate with (Aura, Chippewar, Mitch Holmes, Reagan Kennedy, Nyle Johnston), it’s been my dream to create a mural with Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch (Onaman collective). The murals and street art that I do with Spirit Arts Collective is very aligned with Onaman Collective’s art initiatives that connect youth to the land and the language. We all have very strong voices and I can see a collaboration being very powerful, unifying, and full of meaningful dialogue.

2. What is your favourite piece to date, and why?

My favourite piece is Medicine Man. It was the last piece I created during my thesis at OCAD University and features my dad. On the day I took the photo, we took the boat out on Georgian Bay to Tadenac where our ancestors are buried. We did ceremony and I was able to capture the essence of the smudge through silhouette and digital manipulation. I love that this piece combines storytelling with painting and bead work to discuss connection/disconnection to the land and our languages, and the importance of ancestral connection… concepts that we can all relate to as Indigenous people. It’s a very special piece. It’s one of those pieces that accesses one of my personal experiences to talk about ideas and issues that affect us all. And I think all of our individual narratives are essential to the greater narrative of who we are.

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3. What does working in schools with the Youth mean to you, and how is that reflected in the murals?

Creating murals in schools is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career as an artist. It’s hard as hell because we open wounds when we speak hard truths and address the internalized and systemic racism that continues to exist within formal educational institutions. We address all of this while also teaching technical painting skills and painting on the mural ourselves. It can be exhausting but I love it. I love working closely with the students and hearing their stories. I love being able to find new ways to engage the students (which usually means using my tattoos as a teaching tool) and decolonize their education. I love watching the students enter the project rather timidly and then gain confidence throughout the project. There’s a lot of growth that happens when we create murals in schools. We ensure that our students receive an honest education about Indigenous peoples; we include traditional teachings, historical facts, contemporary issues, and personal narratives to create strong, trusting bonds with the kids we work with. One of my most favourite parts of mural creation is when an Indigenous student comes forward and opens up about their identity because they feel safe. There were a few students that Aura and I worked with recently who had never talked about it with their teachers. Because they felt safe enough to tell us, we were able to provide that information to the school and establish a smudging area at the school so these students could connect to their heritage. We are able to reach kids on a creative, collaborative level and this type of immersive learning is most effective because it shakes up the normalcy of Western pedagogy. The murals that we create with students bring our worldviews to life and invite them in, creating a safe space where we can all learn together and have fun.

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4. What has been your favourite mistake, in terms of your art?

My favourite mistake was assuming I was in this alone. It has been such a pleasant surprise to realize that we, as Indigenous artists, have such a strong community to work with. There was a certain level of fear when I thought about taking on a career as an artist because I thought it would be very cut-throat and I’d be working alone. But I am fortunate to be working with so many amazing collaborators who are strong, unwavering, loving and hardworking. Teamwork makes the dream work!

5. Who inspires you, outside of art?

My mom inspires me everyday. She is the glue that holds our family together. She is the strength that runs through my veins. She carries the spirit of all the women who came before us. She is strong, hardworking, compassionate, independent, honest and loving. She is one of the few people I know who truly lives by the seven grandfather teachings and she is the reason that I am an independent Anishinaabe kwe.

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6. Growing up on-reserve with a parent who practiced traditional medicine, and then moving to the city to study art: can you share how you relate, or don’t relate to, the concept of “we walk two worlds?”

It’s so interesting to be asked this question because I just included this concept in a recent piece I created for Life As Ceremony magazine. Here is an excerpt:

“There’s a concept that says Indigenous people walk in two different worlds. For most of my life i’ve had each foot in a different place. It can be difficult to balance because we are often faced with questions about blood quantum, language proficiency and “authentic Indian experiences.” Sometimes, because we have our feet planted in two different worlds, we feel “not Indian enough.” I have one foot on the rez where I can smell the sage burning. My dad cuts medicines on the front step and my mom prepares a beautiful home cooked meal for when we all convene in the dining room together. Here, the walls are lined with hand drums and Nan’s birch bark placemats. As the steam rises up from our meal and curls around our faces, I prepare a spirit plate to take into the bush for our ancestors. My mukluks crunch through the fresh snow and I think about Toronto, where my other foot is planted. I pass underneath naked birch trees and imagine they are the skyscrapers of Bay Street. The peeling bark hangs solemnly like a man in a suit, hunched over and gazing out his window at the rest of the city below him. There is a dignified sadness to the way the bark slouches and I can’t help but stare. As I lower the plate to the rock where we make our offering, I am struck by how different my worlds are. I think about how when I am home up North, I feel grounded in my traditions. I think about how I can pick cedar from a nearby tree and boil it up. I think about how my dad brings his turtle shaker into my room at night, as a form of comfort and protection. I think about how my brother rides his snow mobile down to the lake and drills holes in the ice to catch bass. And then I think about how practicing our traditions in an urban space can create tension. I think about when I smudged at a friend’s house on Pape Avenue and her neighbour texted to ask about the smell, which they described as a chemical burning. I think about how people on the subway reach out and grab my medicine pouch, because to them, it is a tactile piece of history, something that doesn’t quite belong. I think about the holes that form in the bottoms of my moccasins from walking on pavement, and the ache in my feet from being so disconnected from the land. And I think about a lady in Guelph who approached me while I painted a mural. She said: “Oh, when I heard they were doing an Aboriginal mural I assumed they would have hired an Aboriginal artist!” “I am,” I said. “How much?” she replied. Arguments about blood quantum, language proficiency and “authentic Indian experiences” aside, all I can say is, I am. No matter where my feet are, or what is above me, I AM.”

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7. Dreaming big, what is the ultimate goal for you, as an artist?

The ultimate goal for me as an artist is to have a gallery where we can showcase youth artists, emerging artists, and established artists. It will be a place to show and sell a diverse selection of Indigenous art, with no limitations. It will also have a studio space in the back for our collective to work, and a workshop space upstairs where we can host our own workshops or bring in third parties. It will be a social space where everyone can learn and have fun. I think that’s all I ever want is to spread the love, uplift our youth, create safe spaces and collaborate!

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8. One of your latest art features Evan Adams as his character Thomas Builds-the-Fire. Which is hella awesome. Can you share how this piece came to be?

I had so much fun making this piece! And Evan Adams even retweeted it! As if! This piece was created to accompany another illustration I did, which features Kawenn áhere Devery Jacobs’ character Aila from Rhymes For Young Ghouls. Both pieces represent Indigenous film and the ways in which these characters empower our communities. I wanted to create a diptych of these characters because they represent two different eras of Indigenous film. Thomas Builds-The-Fire has been essential to Indigenous film because his character has always emphasized the importance of storytelling and oral tradition, from a humorous position. And Smoke Signals as a whole is iconic because it responds to the misrepresentation of Indigenous identity in the media and allows us to sit at the same table as “everyone else” while also acknowledging our fundamental cultural and political differences. And then we have Aila in Rhymes For Young Ghouls, who represents our youth who have to fight for their lives. Her character speaks to the crisis our youth are constantly undergoing and this film, in my opinion, is a story of survivance, which Gerald Vizenor describes as a “renunciation of dominance, tragedy and victimry.” Aila fights back, and I love that about her. Aila and Thomas are different, but both are essential to the diverse and accurate representation of Indigenous people and our experiences within the media.

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9. What is something people don’t generally know about you?

People don’t generally know that I have a deep appreciation and fascination for Lady Gaga. I don’t know what it is, but ever since her first album Fame I’ve been attracted to her image and music. And the weirdest thing is that each album is released during crucial transitional phases of my life, and each of them speaks to what I’m experiencing and becomes the soundtrack for each phase. Its weird. But I’m okay with it.

10. Favorite quote:

“Yes, Pete, it is. Actually, it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for ‘the good land’” – Alice Cooper, Wayne’s World Social Media:

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Keep in Touch:

FB: Chief Lady Bird Art // Insta: @chiefladybird

Twitter: @chiefladybird // Tumblr: Chief Lady Bird Art Tumblr


Chief Lady Bird (Nancy King) is a Potawatomi and Chippewa artist from Rama First Nation with paternal ties to Moosedeer Point First Nation. Her Anishinaabe name is Ogimaa Kwe Bnes, which means Chief Lady Bird. She completed her BFA in 2015 in Drawing and Painting with a minor in Indigenous Visual Culture at OCAD University and has been exhibiting her work since she was fourteen years old. Her current series of work uses “beaded glyphs” as fragments of made-up visual language that reference both wampum belts, syllabics and petroglyphs as a way of understanding the loss of language through Canada’s genocidal legacy and continued assimilation tactics. These beaded glyphs convince the viewer that they mean something and create tension and frustration between the work and viewer, to emulate the frustration that many Indigenous nations feel who aren’t fluent in their traditional languages.

 

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Feature Artist: Tamika Knutson

My favourite thing about Tea & Bannock is sharing the work of artists I come across on my travels. On my recent trip to Dawson City, Yukon I met Tr’ondek Hwech’in artist Tamika Knutson, a summer student at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. She showed me some of her jewellery work inspired by the moss and lichen of the north. I asked her to share a bit about her practices with Tea & Bannock.

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I’ve always had an interest in art but never thought it would be my career path. Now I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I’ve been studying fine arts for the past 4 years now. My first year of study was at Yukon School of Visual Arts in my hometown Dawson City, Yukon and the last three years I’ve been at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’ve had the chance to explore a variety of mediums in the past four years.

Initially, I struggled to find one that I wanted to focus on, until I enrolled in “Introduction to Jewellery” in the Fall of 2013. Something about transforming rough metal into precious art objects was exciting to me. I’ve been studying jewellery ever since that introduction class and am now going to graduate as a Jewellery major.

My most recent jewellery is inspired by the natural curiosities of moss and lichen. I feel this inspiration is significant to me because I grew up in Northern Canada where moss and lichen are abundant. I find moss and lichen interesting because it makes me imagine a miniature world unto itself; a whole ecosystem of fantastic colours and shapes. It can only be truly appreciated when you physically get close and acknowledge it. But, is so easily dismissed or overlooked.

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My jewellery creation have allowed me to relive and build on these inspirations that have been a part of my whole life. I feel privileged to make and share beautiful things for a living. I hope my work will encourage people to look a little closer and appreciate the small things.

-Tamika Knutson

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Follow Tamika on Instagram : QURKZ Jewellery

 

Nicole Lapierre – Featured Artist

When I first started tea&bannock, I knew I wanted some East Coast representation happening. My only problem was getting the word out and finding someone who wanted to participate, on some level, with us. So I did what any normal 30-something does when she needs to get in touch with people – I posted it on Facebook. An online friend, Savvy Simon (pictured above), instantly mentioned Nicole Lapierre. Nicole was doing Savvy’s maternity photos, and when they started showing up on my social media feeds, I was charmed. It was refreshing to see cultural practices acknowledged and shot by an insider, by one of our own.

Then I creeped on her instagram and blog, and I was blown away.

Colour. Skylines. Saturated pools of water. Towering mountains. Smouldering eyes. Intimate kisses. And the travel, oh my, the travel. Turns out Nicole is a highly talented and successful photographer that gets to capture the love stories of people all over the world.

Nicole’s work makes me want to try harder, to open my eyes little wider, and to push myself to aim for those dreams that I don’t dare yet speak of.

Come and meet her.

 – tenille campbell

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Lake Minnewanka, Banff, Alberta

Tell us about yourself and where you come from?

I am a fine art portrait and wedding photographer in Nova Scotia, and travel all over the world to practice my craft. I am Mi’kmaq and have recently become more involved in educating myself with the culture and story of the Mi’kmaq people.

My inspiration and intrigue with wanting to know more came to be while leading the exercise of collecting information for my father’s family tree, in preparation for our family’s application to the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations Band in Newfoundland. My father was born in St. George’s Newfoundland, and like myself, is also a member of the St. George’s Indian Band. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a young man, and left Newfoundland to serve his country. Along the way, he met my mother, and together they created our family.

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My father, on his 60th birthday.

I didn’t know much about my culture, because my father spent much of his childhood in an orphanage with his brothers and sisters following the death of his father when he was very young. My family took a trip to Newfoundland a couple of years ago, and my father walked us around the land where he grew up, and took us to the the Rec-plex that had been named after his late father (read about the story here). It was during that visit that my heart wanted to know more about my family and culture. I started researching and attending Pow Wows in Halifax, and that is where I met my dear friend, Savvy Simon. Savvy is a beautiful soul, and motivational speaker, spreading the importance of maintaining the Mi’kmaq language with her #speakmikmaq videos on social media, and her positivity message. Savvy, is a native of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, and grew up in a Mi’kmaq-speaking, single-parent home, educated in the language by her mother and grandmother. Her positive outlook on life and passion for her people truly spoke to my heart, and so I have made significant efforts to follow along, joining online groups where the language is being taught and shared, and picking things up along the way.

The fire inside me has been ignited, and it has made me a better photographer by opening my mind, and following my heart in order to create images that feel authentic and project impactful emotion.

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Waseteg and Savvy, Mi’kmaq 

How did your journey to photography come about?

Aa I approached high school graduation, I was still very unsure as to what it was I wanted to do, so I applied to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. Mid-way through that process at the young age of 21, I had a son, and raised him as a single parent until he was 7, which is when I met my wonderful and supportive husband Teddy. During my university career, I had to take a year off (between year 2 & 3) after having my son. During that time off I was very bored and needed some mental stimulation, so I enrolled in the Cosmetology Program at a Community College very close to my apartment, and received my Hair Design License, thinking that hair design would be a fun and creative career. I was working in a restaurant downtown at the time on weekends, and studying during the week, while being a mother with help from my parents when I worked. After finishing the Hair Design Program a year later, I decided that it wasn’t my passion, and went back to Dalhousie, where I studied part-time, while working full time at the restaurant. It took a little longer than it would have most, but I eventually graduated, and it was an amazing motivator. Still not knowing what I wanted to do with my degree, I applied for an Administrative Assistant position with a local gold mining company that had mines in Mexico. Throughout my years there, I advanced in the company, was provided with wonderful opportunities, travelled to many beautiful places, and met so many amazing people. I think this opened my eyes to photography, because I would take my camera with me to the mine sites, and I would often fly into the sites via Cessna (small plane), and the views were so breathtaking.

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Positano, Italy

In 2009, I married my husband, and throughout our wedding day, I watched our wedding photographer and thought to myself that perhaps this would be a good career for me, not knowing anything about photography or how to run a business. That Christmas, my husband bought me a camera, and I had my first set of weddings in the summer of 2010. I had never studied photography before, but the whole process felt very intuitive, and the internet was a wonderful learning tool for me. I continued to work full time in my corporate position, while capturing weddings on weekend with the help of my husband, and I did both jobs for 5 years.

In 2014, after a 10 year career in the gold mining industry, I decided to resign from my position and practice photography full time. I now have a beautiful photography studio, and travel all over the world capturing weddings and portraits.

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Devon & Hailee, Elk, California 

Describe your style of photography?

I have such a love for people, natural light and incredible scenery. I use an approach that combines documentary and fine art styles to capture beautiful, authentic, and timeless moments that perfectly reflect the personalities of the people I photograph. I strive to visually tell compelling stories that express emotion, and capture genuine moments as they unfold.

Capturing every beautiful detail is what I live for. I truly love what I do, and put my heart and soul into every single image I capture.

People can often get lost in the chaos of the day to day, so I like to use my portrait sessions as a personal branding opportunity for individuals to get to know themselves again, and give them a little a boost.

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Amanda, baby sister. A birthday portrait. 

Where and how do you find inspiration?

I love how light hits things, and I am always looking to colours, textures and scents to inspire me. Movement in my images is so important to me, because I want the people looking at them to feel like they are present in each moment. The way the wind blows is always top of mind for me because I love the natural movement and realness that the it gives to things.  I love eyes, they tell so much about a person or animal, and if you take the time to look into someone or somethings eyes, you can feel their soul and see a little bit of their story, perhaps it is my indigenous heart that seeks this connection. I love to travel, and I make a point to visit a different place, or a favourite place at least twice a year in order to fuel my creativity. I am also forever creating mood boards to help guide the visual path of my images, and to learn new things.

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Anthony & Hannah, Elk, California 

How do you want to be remembered?

My hope is that I will be remembered for my love of all people, and for having been a bridge for some, having helped them move through to their next chapter of life with confidence. As humans, we all have bad days, months, years in life, and I try my best to see the good, and to see that low times will not be forever, and that we are often presented with them as a way to push ourselves a little harder. I hope that people will remember me for that, and take comfort from the message. I would also like to use my craft to somehow help Indigenous People, and I am still trying to figure out the best way to make that happen, but it will come to me.

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Sailboats on the water. Positano, Italy. 

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

One of my favourite photographers of all time is Erich McVey. He is a fine art photographer from Portland, Oregon, and I had the beautiful opportunity to attend one of his photography workshops last year, it changed my entire view and path of my business, and helped me to refine my aesthetic. I love to learn, and I will continue to learn until I am laid to rest. Erich’s captures have such a presence, and I would love to work with him again one day, and suspect that with my tenacious personality I will make it so.

What was your proudest moment as a photographer?

There are many uplifting moments that have fuelled my passion, but when I see the faces of, or receiving heartfelt emails from couples or individuals who I have photographed, it that truly makes my heart sing, and affirms that I am doing what I am destined to do.

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Devon & Hailee, Elk, California. 

Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers?

Be true to yourself, know what you are worth, and value your craft, time and ability. You will attract what you project, so always try and be positive. Run your business with certainty and conviction, know that you will have bad days, but they will be outweighed by the good days.

Never doubt yourself, and leave lots of room in your mind and heart to learn and grow, personally and professionally; one can never know too much.

Collaborate with other photographers and creatives whenever you have the opportunity, sharing is the key to growing because we all rise best together. Never compare yourself to others, social media can weigh heavy on us as creatives because everyones’ lives and businesses are often perceived to be so perfect, but remember its all how things are projected to be. It is okay to follow other creatives, but seek inspiration from them, never compare yourself, because we all have our own gift to share with the world.

// Social Media //

FB: Nicole Lapierre Photography // Instagram: @lapierrenicole // Twitter: @lapierrephoto

Kitchen Table Talks

All of us at Tea & Bannock have agreed to prioritize mentorship as part of our collective work. In considering this, I sat down with my mentor, Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh. She has made several documentary films including: Women in the Shadows, Keepers of the Fire, Kuper Island: Return to the Healing Circle, The Story of the Coast Salish Knitters and Finding Dawn.

I met Christine at the University of Victoria. Her class was the place I felt most challenged, seen, and heard. She hired me as her to intern on the documentary Finding Dawn. Over the past dozen years, she’s been my professor, my boss, my mentor, my friend, and I’m proud to say she is now my Mother-in-law, and the best Kookum in the world.

Who better to ask about my new role, than from my own mentor?

Christine Welsh Metis Filmmaker

Christine at her Kitchen Table

[JW] You’re been an active mentor, I can attest to that. You’ve spoken to me before about the importance of mentorship, and how it’s not common. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about why you think that is.

[CW] I don’t know why it isn’t more common than it is.

I had some really important mentors in my life. When I think back on the directions that my life has gone in. Those people stand at the head of those forks in the road, they really do.

Jean Oser

Jean Oser

The first one was John Oser who was my film teacher. A very unconventional film teacher, but that was his role. He was the person that made me want to be a filmmaker. He was this completely unconventional teacher. You showed films, and then you stood at the front, and then you just talked passionately about them.

On campus at the time, there was this buzz that went around, about this old man (OLD MAN! He was as old as I am now!) in the Fine Arts department that was teaching these film courses on Wednesday mornings. and anybody could go, because it was in ‘Dark Hall’, and it was dark, and nobody knew who was there. So you would just go, and find a dark seat in this auditorium, and watch movies, and listen to this guy talk. And I just was in love and I never went back to English class. I mean that was IT.

[JW] Is that what you were doing, an English degree?

[CW] Yes, I was in school to do an English degree and I just never went back. I just sat there and listened to him.

[JW] What was he like?

[CW] He was an amazing man. He was one of these people who saw good things everywhere. He would look at a students’ really clichéd, deeply flawed little film effort and always find something wonderful in it. Of course they are going to have things wrong with them, but that’s not what you focus on. You focus on the wonderful, and you make them think they are capable of wonderful. He taught me that.

He had worked on the first sound films in Germany in the early 1930s. He had been prescient enough to leave Germany when he saw what Nazism was bringing. He and his wife were both Jewish, and had moved to the safety of New York.

There he worked on a lot of war propaganda films for the Office of War Information in the United States. He was a film editor. He brought this bigger world to me. He wasn’t an academic. He came to the University of Regina because one of his radical students in New York, also Jewish, also a Marxist, had come to the University of Regina as a radical sociology professor. They all ended up in this little prairie city that didn’t know what hit it! Even though Saskatchewan had this pretty radical history of it’s own.

He encouraged me to come just spend time with him and learn from him. He had this ratty little office in the basement of Dark hall. We all just hung out down there, a group of us, 5 or 6 young men, and me. I was the only woman. There was film making equipment and we could just do anything we wanted with it.

John Oser Editing

John Oser editing

He taught me editing on an old Moviola. [laughs] That was one of those stand up double system things that you see in the movies that has been around since the thirties. He taught me how to edit on this thing just because he wanted to. Because he thought I had a talent for editing, which I ended up doing, once I left there.

[JW] Was there anyone else?

[CW] I also had a dance teacher – in my late teens and early twenties. Her name was Marianne Livant and she has since passed. She was a really important mentor in my life. She was this really smart aleck, loud mouthed, super intense, super creative, Jewish woman from New York.

She was a modern dancer and she set up this modern dance workshop studio in Regina, of a sort Regina had never seen . I had been taking ballet lessons and started going to her workshop. It wasn’t so much the dance that changed my life. It was her and hanging around with her family. I mean they just like swore up and down! I can remember her two kids getting kicked out the swimming pool, the public swimming pool in the Wascana Park in Regina because they were so fowl mouthed! Up until then, I didn’t swear all that much, but I learned!

[JW] I can attest to that!

 

[CW] I learned! I had had this very sort of conservative catholic upbringing, going to a high school run by nuns, all girls, wearing the uniforms – the whole business. And here was this woman who just showed me this other way to be in the world and I wanted that.

We became very close. We would travel and do these little dance performances in small towns in Saskatchewan. Both her and her late husband Bill, were very important people in my life because they kind of busted open my very conservative upbringing and showed me a different way.

Marianne Livant's Dance Troupe 1973/74

It was a tremendously exciting time to be in Regina, at the University. These people just blew open my world! I saw that not only were there other ways to be in the world. But I learned a lot about European history, about American history, about radical politics. That was my radical politics initiation because at that point I was still not “out” as a native person. I was not part of this world as a native person. I was just part of this world as one of Marianne’s dancers and as a student. They were tremendously important people in my life.

So, I had some really wonderful mentors in my life, I really did. And I consider myself so fortunate that they were there. And of course there were people on the films. On every film there was somebody who was a mentor. On Women in the Shadows it was Emma LaRocque. On Keepers of the Fire it was Shirley Bear. On the Kuper Island film it was Delmar Johnnie Seletze. And of course on Finding Dawn there was Janice Acoose and Fay Blaney and everyone on Finding Dawn – you! You were my teacher. There were so many teachers on Finding Dawn. Each film there were just so many people who taught me so much.

[JW] So you came to teaching through a non-traditional route?

[CW] And I had seen many non-traditional teachers! Non-traditional teachers had been my mentors.

[JW] So what made you decide to teach?

[CW] I didn’t go seeking it out. It’s not something I saw myself doing. I was a single mom, in filmmaking. I was living in Toronto and I was editing. I knew that once my son was born, that I wasn’t going to be able to continue to do that because it was a 24/7 job. It wasn’t going to work.So, I went back and finished that degree, fifteen years later. And that was where I met my next mentor. I took a class that was taught by Sylvia Van Kirk and that’s how I met her. That’s how I learned how that little piece of history clicked together that became Women in the Shadows. It was through her, again, mentors!

Students often ask you for career advice, and my career advice is really simple; Pay attention to the things that get put in your path, especially the people that are put in your path. You might think you’re getting this degree that’s going to put you on this path to be XY or Z but other things are always put in your path and it’s up to you do something with that. Those are going to be the things that are ultimately most important in your life. They were in my life.

So mentoring is a really interesting topic, because I think about the people who were put on my journey and I think it’s our responsibility to the future. I actually take it really seriously and I always have. We’re responsible for handing over whatever this piece is that we’ve learned. You know? From our mistakes, from our efforts, we are responsible to pass that on, and then eventually step aside.

Christine Welsh being honoured at UVic.

Honouring Ceremony and retirement party for Christine Welsh at UVic.

I feel that really intensely now. It’s time for me to be leaving my job at UVic, it’s been really good. Even though it’s not anything I ever would have imagined for myself – to be a university teacher. It taught me a huge amount. I met amazing students who are still part of my life. It’s all been about the relationships that I formed there. But I don’t need to keep doing it indefinitely.

I’m really delighted that another young Indigenous woman scholar is now going to take that place. It’s her time to do that. I had my time there. Just like you’re supposed to lead now. I can provide whatever wisdom I’ve managed to accumulate and opinions (of which you know I will be only too happy to share.) But it is for you to decide where that goes now, because that’s your future. It’s your turn and I’ll be there with you, but you decide where we go next.

[JW] So these careers, these positions in the world don’t need to go on forever… you’re wrapping this one up, you’ve decided to let it go and put down teaching.

[CW] “Put down teaching” I really like that expression!

[JW] What other things are you working on now that aren’t teaching?

[CW] I’m finishing a short documentary called The Thinking Garden about a group of elderly women who have been operating a community garden in Jopi village in Limpopo Province, South Africa since Apartheid. It’s an amazing story of women’s resilience, which is one of the reasons I became involved with it.

It was proposed to me by a colleague at UVic, Elizabeth Vibert. She has been working with these women recording their life stories. You can find more information at Womensfarm.org.

[JW] You’re definitely not retired, just moving onto other things.  Now, let me catch up long enough to take your picture! Thank you!

Portrait of Christine Welsh

Christine

 

* Disclaimer: Some of the statements have been edited for clarity and continuity.

Shayla of Snowshoe Studios – Featured Artist

Shayla and I grew up on opposite ends of the Northwest Territories, like many youth in the North, we met at Arctic Winter Games tryouts for Dene Games. We competed, we laughed and we shared many stories.

Our friendship was instant; Shayla’s personality is humorous – absolutely hilarious, outgoing and could make me laugh like nobodies business. It felt like we had known each other for years. We share a lot in common; it’s actually quite weird. We both have a true passion for the Dene Games sport, we both love to travel, we love the North and we both attended photography school the same year – different schools.

While I was in photography school, I turned to Shayla for help, advice and ofcourse a good laugh. We often compared schools, photographers, photography work and assignments. That was almost 5 years ago!

I’ve always admired Shayla’s work straight from the get-go, her ability to capture her culture, the pristine land, the elders; her people never seize to amaze me. She inspires me every time she shares an image – she is always willing to push the envelope a little farther every time.

It was only natural to ask Shayla to apart of the Tea & Bannock blog as a featured artist, she was the first person I thought of, one of my favorite Northern photographers and I knew she would never disappoint.

I’m proud to call her my friend and so proud of her as the photographer of Snowshoe Studios!

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Tell us about yourself and where you come from?

Drin gwiinzi shilakat, jii juudin Shayla “Gwikitch’ihkheh” Snowshoe vilzhih. My name is Shayla Snowshoe; I am a Tetlit Gwich’in woman born and raised in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories. I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, a fighter, a photographer and a laugher. I come from a long line of strong, beautiful and intelligent mothers and grandmothers that I would like to acknowledge, because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for every single one of them.

The most important thing in life, to me, is my family; they are my source of strength, unconditional love and inspiration. One of the people that I cherish the most in my life is my Jijuu (grandmother) Mary Effie and her knowledge. She has helped me to appreciate my culture, while teaching me the traditions that were passed down to her from her father as well as respect and humility. I love spending time with my Jijuu, learning to hunt, fish, cook, sew and provide for our home.

How did your journey to photography come about?

My journey to photography started at a very young age, my mom literally has photographs of myself as a baby holding a camera with the biggest grin on my face. I was always running around family dinners and events with a little digital camera in my hand, bugging everyone to let me snap their photos. But I really truly fell in love with photography when I was in high school taking a film photography class in Vancouver, BC. I had never had that type of exposure to photography before, so it was all so new and intriguing to me. During that year, my dad gave me my first film camera, and that’s where it all started.

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Describe your style of photography?

I would say that my style of photography is a combination of, but definitely not limited to, portrait and wedding photography. I love being able to capture and showcase the many different faces of the North while incorporating the diverse cultures that each client has intertwined into their lives.

 Where and how do you find inspiration?

I find my inspiration mainly through the encouragement and gratitude that is expressed towards myself and my photographs, especially from my family. I also find a lot of inspiration from other portrait photographers, especially aboriginal photographers who also incorporate the unique cultures of the different clans around the world into their work.

How do you want to be remembered?

I have never really thought about how I would like to be remembered, but the very first thing that comes to mind is that I want to be remembered as kind. I want to be remembered as a person who was kind and respectful to all that I crossed paths with, as well as passionate about my work and creative.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Without a doubt in my mind – ANNIE LEIBOVITZ. Annie is my all time favorite photographer, she is amazing on so many levels. This woman has experienced it all and she continues to thrive within her photographic career… It would be an absolute privilege to work along side one of the world’s most legendary photographers.

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Explain how is it to be a photographer in the North of 60?

Cold. Dark. Quiet. Amazing. Culturally rich. Beautiful scenery. I feel as though there are definitely some hard cons to deal with, but the pros are far greater than any of those setbacks. It can be so cold and dark in the winters that it’s hard to book sessions or find the inspiration to go out shooting… but there are days when the sun is shining all night and the geese are flying around or the northern lights will be dancing and I have a moment where I realize that this is exactly where I am meant to be. This is my home, these are my people and this is my culture… this is exactly what I want to be photographing and showcasing to the world.

How does your culture tie into your photography work?

My culture is a huge part of my photography work because I spend a lot of time working to incorporate any types of cultural representations into my photos; beaded slippers, baby belts, hand sewn mitts, etc. I also love going out on the land with my Jijuu and being able document her in her element; harvesting caribou, carefully cutting dryfish, chopping wood, making bannock, all of the things that she loves to do out on the land.

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What was your proudest moment as a photographer?

My proudest moment as a photographer was when I won a photo contest with the Gwich’in Tribal Council with a photograph of my Jijuu chopping wood. Although winning the photo contest was pretty amazing in itself, nothing could ever beat the look of pride and appreciation on my Jijuu and Jijii’s faces when I hung the winning photograph on the wall in their home. Those are the moments that make my career worth while.

Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers in the North?

Enjoy the learning process. It’s okay to make a mistake… that’s how I learned most lessons since beginning my photography journey. Experiment with your camera’s settings, different subjects and new locations. Interact with other photographers; it’ll be good for your knowledge base as well as your inspiration. Never stop creating. Never stop believing in yourself. And like my mom always says, #1 rule: always be kind.

Stay in touch with Snowshoe Studios on Facebook

 

 

Savanna Todd – Featured Artist

I’d like to introduce you to Savanna Todd. I met Savanna when I lived in Vancouver for a minute. I was involved at the Purple Thistle Centre a youth-run art and resource centre in east Vancouver where Savanna was a collective member. I moved away from Vancouver in 2012 and have stayed connected with many of the people I met via The Purple Thistle. Though I was there for a very brief time, I learned so much from the collective and the community there. The Purple Thistle has since closed its doors but the connections made there still reverberate. I invited Savanna to share some of her photography for this blog, hope you enjoy!
Introduce yourself and where you are from.
My name is Savanna Todd and I live in east Vancouver.
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What is your relationship with photography as both photo taker and sometimes subject?
I’ve been dabbling in photography from behind and in front of the camera for awhile now. Although it’s never grown as more than a hobby, I still take classes and feel compelled to keep using it as a tool to explore composition and my own personal interests.
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myphotos5
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What other media do you work in?
I’m primarily an illustrator. I’m currently studying Illustration at Emily Carr University. I’ve also made short films.
myphotos3
myphotos2
Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I’m very taken by vivid color-schemes and bold angles. I often look to old Hollywood and contemporary fashion photography for inspiration and cues, anything that conveys the mood that I’m going for.
myphotos1
Film or digital?
I’ve shot on both. I have to say that although I love film, I feel more comfortable using digital because it allows me to take as many pictures as I want while having the option to view each one.
> > Connect with Savannah on Instagram <<
 – joi t arcand 

CARLA LEWIS – FEATURED ARTIST

Carla and I go wayyyyy back, okay not that way back but at least eight years back in time. A mutual friend of ours had brought Carla to a prenatal yoga class that I was teaching in Victoria, BC. We were both pregnant with our first babies and due around the same time too.  I think we hung out a couple of times after the boys were born, I have a vague memory of them toddling around and fighting over a Little Tikes ride along car.  I wonder if I have any photos of that day? Did we even talk about photography back then? I doubt it, I think the conversation was around sleep, nursing, and maybe even potty training. Carla and her son are now living in Wet’suwet’en Yintah (Burns Lake, BC). We haven’t seen each other in years but we’ve stayed in touch through social media. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that she has been taking some beautiful photos of where she’s from, the people, the land, the waters, the animals and the sky. You can see in her images that she photographs with respect. I knew that she had to be part of the conversation on Tea and Bannock so I was pleased when she agreed to be interviewed as a featured artist.

Jasper Wild:  Fun photoshoot at Pyramid Lake in Jasper, AB.

Jasper Wild: Fun photoshoot at Pyramid Lake in Jasper, AB

Cree Luvins

Trish Patrick

Abby Michell

Abby Michell

10 Questions: 

1. Where are you from?

Wet’suwet’en/Gitxsan from the House of Spook’w.

2. Tell us about your journey of becoming a professional photographer.

Growing up, my dad had an old Pentax camera.  He didn’t use it much anymore, but always showed off his photos proudly.  I loved the sound of the shutter and would sometimes just sit there flicking the shutter just to hear it fly.  So when I was 16, I saved up money from my summer jobs and bought my first camera, a Nikon F80 SLR and that was my baby until the DSLRs came out and I switched to digital.  I took one Intro to Photography course in university, but otherwise am self-taught and have mostly been a hobbyist. 

So, for as long as I can remember, I had my camera with me and mostly took snapshots of my family, plants and landscapes.  I took my love of photography and travel to many parts of the world.  We didn’t grow up with a silver spoon, or even a copper spoon for that matter, so I found free ways to travel, like volunteering, internships, and working for non-profits oversees while I attended university. 

In the beginning of my paid photography days, it was mostly for family and friends doing weddings and other life events in exchange for a small fee or I’d just ask them to buy me a new flash or something camera related.  But, I think it was when social media became mainstream and I began sharing my photos publicly that I started becoming known as a “professional” photographer.  It was still gradual, but as time went on, more and more people wanted to hire me to do their photos to the point where I had to make my photography a bit more structured and business oriented and has crept it’s way into my consulting business. 

As a teen, I also wanted to be a National Geographic Explorer.  I actually called them for my Career Prep class in high school and asked what I needed to do to become an Explorer.  The lady I spoke to pretty much laughed in my face and said it was near impossible.  I hung up and was like, “Whatever!” and proceeded to research it myself and found that instead of journalism or photography, it was better to have a post-secondary education in an explorer related field.  So, I ended up with a BA in First Nations Studies and Anthropology and a MA in Indigenous Governance and am now totally happy not working for National Geographic, but rather working at a grassroots level towards Indigenous resurgence in my traditional territory.  But if NG ever called, I don’t think I would turn them down!

Kanahus Manuel

Kanahus Manuel

Aspiring Photog Sterling Sampson

Aspiring Photog Sterling Sampson

 

3. How does your Indigenous culture affect your work? 

Being indigenous makes me not only want, but need, to create images of Indigenous people that aren’t stereotypical and promote the reality and tell the true stories of our communities.  I make sure that my photos can’t be misconstrued in a negative sense or taken out of context in a way that can be damaging for the individual or community.  I also make sure not to romanticize Indigenous cultures like we have been in the past and to show our contemporary lives and our struggle to renew the cultures that were taken from us.  I hope that all of my work, whether it be photography, research, or facilitation inspires our young people to celebrate our culture, learn about our history, and find ways to create a difference for our communities as we work to decolonize our ways of being. 

In a more practical sense, my indigenous knowledge and identity require a high code of ethics when working with Indigenous people, such as not taking photos at ceremonies for instance.  I’ve had some amazing experiences in my life that could have been amazing photo ops, but, I was a participant and proper protocol dictated that I put the camera down.

Grandma Berry Attack

Grandma Berry Attack

4. Which photo, to date, has been the one that you most connected with, and why?

I have always had a hard time picking favourites so as I reflected on this question and looked through some of my work, I have to say that hands down any photo of my son is my favourite.  He has started to get annoyed with me when I am constantly taking photos but he is seriously, the raddest kid ever. 

Levi Dzin

Levi in Unistoten Pithouse

Good thing he's waterproof

Good thing he’s waterproof

5. Who are your role models?

I have a lot of role models from the elders who show the utmost commitment and integrity to revitalizing our culture to the youth who are surviving the heavy hands they have been dealt.  In terms of photography though, again I can’t pick just a few.  I am always admiring other people’s work and there are so many ridiculously talented people out there that I look everywhere for inspiration.   

6. Favourite quote: 

“The truth about stories, is that is all we are” (Thomas King). 

Viola Turner - Gitdumden Baby

Viola Turner – Gitdumden Baby

Jen Wickham

Jen Wickham

7.  What is one of your greatest achievements in your career, thus far? 

A couple years ago, I was asked to volunteer my time doing portraits of Indigenous women from my hometown after they got a free makeover.  I did, because I thought it would be a fun way to give back over the holidays and I was inspired by my friend Shannon Alec who coordinated the event as a “pay it forward” type of thing.  It was a ridiculously fun day and I managed to get some really unique shots just by stepping outside the hall on the rez into the -20 below, bright, and sunny day.  I ran home and did some edits and posted the photos online so the girls could see their photos and somehow the media right across the country got all fired up and wanted to share the story and the photos.  Many times, since then I’ve been asked if I was the one that did the makeover photos. 

8. What do you do to find inspiration? Where do you find inspiration?  

I am constantly looking at other people’s photography, not necessarily for inspiration but for admiration so naturally I get ideas and am challenged to take better photos.  I also find inspiration in nature, my favourite thing is to take my camera and go take close ups of plants, scraggly trees, or amazing sunsets.  I love that when you look to nature for inspiration you can find beauty in everything. 

Freezing Francois

Freezing Francois

Rubina

Rubina Waterhouse

9. How do you want your work to be remembered?

I hope my work creates a positive change in some way whether it is just in an individual’s self-esteem or being proud of being indigenous.  But, I would also love to be able to take one of those images that just shake the world into action for social or environmental justice. 

10. What words of advice do you have for other aspiring photographers?

Take tons of photos, practice in manual mode, and share your photos and your skills with the world!  I’ve met a lot of people who don’t like sharing their photos or doing work for free, but in the beginning this seems like a great way to build your portfolio. 

Wilf Plasway at Donald's Landing

Wilf Plasway at Donald’s Landing

Latoya Charlie

Latoya Charlie

Selfie with Helpie

Selfie with Levi

Now go and check out more of Carla’s work at:

Website:  www.yintah.com // Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/carlalewisphotography/ // Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/carla_lewis_photography/  // Flickr:   https://www.flickr.com/photos/125506682@N02/