breaking the surface

I remember swimming at the lake by our reserve. My brothers and cousins and me, we would dive deep, after we had swum out far enough that we couldn’t touch the bottom anymore. We would hold our breath, trying to be the last one to rise to the surface. I remember opening my eyes and floating in that space between light and dark, watching the sun shimmer through the water in soft waves. Looking at the light, feeling the burn in my lungs, and finally, finally, breaking through the glass of the water, gasping, sputtering, wiping my eyes and laughing.

This last month felt like I constantly trying to break through the surface.

04_20_2017_9_WEB

And it’s hard for me to admit that. I’m not superwoman, but I do “a lot.” I’m in my PhD. I own my own business. I write and manage this blog. I’m a single parent. In the middle of all this, I also write. I’m doing a play. I’m writing a poetry manuscript. I’m tentatively outlining the plot to a novel I’ve been thinking about for the last year.

All these things though, I love. I love my life. I am happy. So why am I so overwhelmed?

05_03_2017_20_WEB

I would understand if I disliked any aspects of this life, but I didn’t. I don’t. I would study and feel content in following a dream I’ve had since I was a teenager. I would photograph a family and smile at the back of my camera, seeing the captured emotions and realize that I love this job. I would cuddle up with my daughter, kissing the top of her head, and try to remember what it was like before I felt this love, before I became her mother.

But slowly, slowly, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t feel the joy. I couldn’t feel the passion. I felt… grey. Nothing. Absent. I went through the motions and denied that anything was wrong. Or I would sigh and shake my head, because even if something was wrong, there was nothing anyone could do to “fix it.”

In between worrying about money, moving homes, my child starting kindergarten, studying for comps, and writing on demand instead of with passion, I finally sat down and said, enough.

05_03_2017_56_WEB

Fuck this.

Fuck feeling like this.

I cannot, and will not, go through my life like this.

Something had to change.

I had to change.

I work with an amazing thesis advisor, and we had a sit down, as we do every week. She asked me, as she often did, “How are you?”

“I’m burned out,” I admitted quietly. She looked at me, eyes a little wide. In all our time together, where she has warned me to take it easy, to not take on so many projects, to be selfish with my time and energy as a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint, this was the first time I had ever admitted to being burned out. To saying enough.

“OK. … What do we need to do?”

I wanted to cry, with relief. Instead, I took a deep breath.

03_17_2017_12_WEB

Saying “enough” wasn’t quitting. It wasn’t a weakness. It didn’t make me “less smart” then those who had come before me.

So you may, or may not, have noticed I stopped writing here for a minute. I needed to step back, and when I did, the women of this blog stepped up. They said ok. They rallied, texted, messaged, and made up for my absence.

And I could breathe.

I took a look at my business and identified what I love doing, and what I do simply for the business. I developed a new business plan, going into effect in January. I identified key goals, and things I could let go.

And I could breathe.

I looked at my PhD with a critical eye. I drew a very badly designed map with crayons, showing where I was in my academic journey and where I needed to go. I’m a visual learner, it turns out, and I need to speak with my community, as soon as possible. So I did the paperwork that needed doing, and soon, very soon, I can start my interviews.

And I could breathe. And smile.

And while I’m still “too busy,” I feel like me again. I feel ambition. I didn’t realize how absent that was until I could feel it again. I felt desire. I felt joy. I felt silly and sarcastic and smart and sexy and powerful.

I feel.

And it’s good.

 – tenille campbell

04_03_2017_11_WEB

NOTE:

This post was written in October 2016. I let it sit for a while because it felt too raw, too vulnerable to admit any weakness, but I knew eventually I would be okay with it.

It’s okay to show the cracks. 

she dances on northern lights

When I went to Vancouver last week-ish, I met up with my (now) good friend, Maddie. I had only previously met her at a wedding for a minute back in the day, but I was gonna crash on her couch because why not. I’ve been blessed in the past to be able to crash on new friend’s couches while travelling, and I knew that Maddie was originally from the North and we had multiple friends in common.

I got lost – of course – and pulled my massive suitcase into Maddie’s place, laughing as we awkwardly discussed how the trip was going. I’m not sure what broke the ice – it may have been her accent which is as thick as her hair (eeeee) – but once we started laughing and then coughing like old men, we quickly bonded and planned our photo session for the next day. Maddie is a talented dancer in multiple forms, but I really wanted to experiment with two ideas – a Métis Jigging Queen, and a more contemporary expression.

takemetothewater_1_WEB

metisqueen_9_WEB

I’ve always wanted to dance, and I’m still that kid out on the floor until the lights turn on, but once I saw the way Maddie could move – my heart ached even more for my lost dream. In a good way.

Maddie creates.

Maddie lives dance.

There was a fearlessness in her that I could appreciate, but never replicate. She gave me her all, and it was great to work with someone who trusted me to create my art while she did hers – making Indigenous magic happen.

takemetothewater_20_WEB

And because my creeper skills are great, I also contacted Elisha of @mua.nativebarbie after seeing some of her work on Instagram. She did this Coast Salish style on her face that had me thinking she could interpret what I wanted pretty easy. Elisha showed up, at first pretty quiet compared to Maddie and I, but as we went on – telling stories, snickering, coughing, sharing – Elisha started to laugh exactlyyyyyy like us. We’re a great influence.

And she slayedddddd her art.

metisqueen_7_WEB

takemetothewater_2_WEB

We were originally only going to the Métis Jigging creative session, but we had the opportunity to finish up with an oceanside session the day I left. We laughed over misheard words – “he thought your name was sweetPOON” – and I stood still for a second, listening to the Rez accents in a big city, the sweet rush of ocean wind blowing through our hair, and I smiled.

Sometimes you find kin in the most unexpected places.

metisqueen_3_WEB

*These are just a few samples o fetch images; hella more coming soon 

Credits:  Model: Madelaine McCallum // Hair+Makeup: MUA Native Barbie  // Pink Gown: Chloë Angus Design // Earrings: Savage Rose  // Beaded Belt: Melody // Mukluks: Unknown (will gather name)

 – tenille campbell

making the cover

“So…. can I tape your nipples?”

My cousin Tara and I have had some weird conversations in our creative journeys. From video shooting to making her be the cover of my first poetry book, we’ve had some amazing times together.

In late October, I was working with Signature Editions on my book cover (to be released in April).

I needed a very specific shot of an Indigenous woman, standing proud, playful, and sensual.

No biggie.

Just decolonizing images, one Indigenous at a time.

I’ve chatted before about how our body and image are often portrayed by outside eyes, which fetishize our skin colour, our culture, and our beauty. I wanted to avoid that, obvs.

So I called Tara up and asked her to be my model. And while I was totally chill, for the most part, with writing and promoting this book, it’s always something to have your face be ‘the face’ of a book cover and have it forever be identified as part of this project. And when you’re chatting about casual sex and intimacy, I wanted to make sure Tara knew what she was getting into.

“Hell yes.”

No wooing needed, she was in.

I set up my RezStudio in my living room. Backdrop. Lights. Music playing. Kids playing in the bedroom. We laughed, as our kids played together the way we still play together – loud, dominant, yet so kind to one another.

And we shot. And shot. And we laughed even more. We chatted about position, lighting, sexuality, and the power of images. I kept making sure that Tara felt comfortable the more she undressed, and we laughed again – “I haven’t seen you this nekked since we took baths together.”

IMG_8227_WEB.jpg

Finally, after the hair teasing, the secret grins, the lip-gloss, and the taping of nipples, we were done. We sat and had tea, and listened to our kids play some more.

I didn’t know how to say thank you. I still don’t. This is powerful medicine for me, being able to take these stories and images and present them in a positive way.

Tara also shared some thoughts with me:

This is experience for me was so empowering. I’ve had the honour of working with Tenille on several occasions, and the thing I love the most is she’s always willing to go out of her comfort zone in order to share my ideas and visions. I appreciated this experience even more because she allowed me to go out of my own comfort zone while still feel completely at peace with it all.

In our culture, it’s almost seen as taboo to be open about sexuality. I know there is a long history of our stories and experiences being exploited, so this is a way for us to take back what is ours. Our bodies and spirits intertwined with healthy sexuality and openness.

When she first showed me the images from this shoot, I was completely amazed with how flawless she captured her ideas, what felt funny, awkward and cheesy to me in mid-pose came out strong, bold and effortless in photograph.

I feel its so important for women to feel comfortable within their own bodies and thoughts because we live in a time where images are hyper-sexualized beyond our control. We live in a time where we are shunned if we are openly sexual and on the other side of the spectrum, are considered to be of higher honour and respect if we are humble and modest.

I think it’s absolutely vital that women be accepted as we are, whether we are fully clothed or willingly exposed. This book is what needs to happen for us to begin this dialogue. We are able to giggle and tell stories amongst ourselves, so why not enable us to openly share our thoughts and innermost feelings with humour, beauty and confidence? Feminism doesn’t have to be seen as angry and aggressive, feminism needs to be seen as empowerment with acceptance and knowledge of self.

With that being said, I am so honoured to be a part of this experience. I see this book as a huge leap for the feminine peace of mind. Thank you, Tenille, for taking this step forward for us all.

Ekosi and Maci Cho.

IMG_8223_WEB.jpg

As a reader, I know the power of a book cover. As an artist, I think about tone, texture, shape, white space, font choice, meaning, and layers. As an Indigenous woman, I know the stereotypes that are often portrayed about us. I am leery and weary of feathers, tribal designs, buckskin, and the hyper-sexualisation of our bodies. So how was this going to work, consulting and deciding on a final image for a book about Indigenous erotica?

I am incredibly lucky that the team at Signature Editions listened to my concerns, and wanted to work with my own photographs. I am pleased to show you a draft of the final cover:

ILP_Cover.jpg

 – tenille campbell

re+work

The first time I used studio lights was in Patuanak. I was hired for a Christmas Gathering and the Chief and Council wanted everyone to have photos done in front of the big tree/presents/etc. I knew the lights would be awful in that location – band hall – so I borrowed a basic set off my photog friend Tracey, of Copperblue Designs. I got set up, did a ish-load of photos, had not a damn clue what I was doing (for real tho), and managed to deliver some crisp, clear and well-lit photos to my community.

It was good learning something new.

But still, let me be the first to say that studio work is not my strong point. And even the word “studio” is adorable right now. I’m lucky enough to have some talented friends that let me rent space when needed – Hi, Miywasin Studio and Maki Fotos – but more often then not, I am rocking the home-studio for some of my work. It’s kind of awkward inviting strangers into your home, another reason I don’t do a lot of studio lighting work, but whatever. Suck it up, laugh about it, and move forward. Get shit done, amiright?

I admire many photographers who can rock a studio set-up and deliver constant, on point photos – people like Melody Charlie or Poihakena Portraits – but that just ain’t me. Yet.

I don’t love studio work, but I accept the challenge. I want to try. I want to learn. I want to make the mistakes.

And while that is all good and fun, once the final products are delivered (which are generally clean commercial edits), I get to play.

I’m that person with 20+ photography apps on my phone. I adore iPhotography. I adore apps.

And how can you not?

A few simple clicks and a mood just changes…

IMG_3972_WEB-1.jpg

IMG_3992_WEB-1.jpg

What was once clean and crisp commercial edits becomes dirty and grungy and I fall in love all over again.

IMG_3948_WEB.jpg

It’s through experimenting with apps that I can test how I feel about certain looks- Do I like faded, distressed, high-def, ultra-saturated, grunge? It’s through apps that I feel I can safely test out multiple looks on the same image, and see for myself how multiple meanings can come through on one image with just texture and tone adjusted.

It’s quick. It’s easy. I’m not saying apps replace Photoshop, at all, but I am saying for something on the go, apps are the next big thing to experiment with.

img_3979_web

Currently, my top five editing apps are:

  1. VSCO: Yasssssss. That’s all I gotta say. 
  2. Mextures: This is where all the grunge and distressed style comes in. There are cleaner looks, for sure, but I was specifically editing for high visuals in these sets above. 
  3. Prisma: Go check it out – you’ll know where that cool mosaic feature comes from. My only beef is that it makes all images a square, which is weak, but the editing looks are lovely.  
  4. Rhonna Designs: Excellent fonts (I love fonts) and multiple designers create design packs for all seasons, events, holidays, etc. 
  5. Polamatic: This gives you a polaroid look, and you can adjust the types of polaroid film as well as the frame. The film lover in me is entertained.  

So give it up, share a secret:

What’s your favourite editing app?  

 – tenille campbell

HOME

Takwakin (Autumn or Fall) is the time of year that my family and I usually make our annual visit to Saskatchewan. However, this year we decided to stay home on the coast. Taking my boys back to where I come from is always a time that I look forward to. I want them to see, smell and hear the sounds of the places that form my earliest memories. I want them to feel the warm sun on their faces as they gaze at the endless prairie sky. I want my boys to remember where their ancestors came from. To see the place of the stories of the rougarou and the Virgin Mary. I want my boys to play in the same leaf filled ditches that my sisters, cousins and I did. To smell the freshly cut wheat, barley and canola. To taste fresh lake fish caught by my grandfather. I want my boys to know those connections. I want us to feel those experiences in our bones, to remember the changes of the season.

For a long time I lived a life where I was torn between my home in Saskatchewan and my home on the coast. I struggled with how to teach our children about where our ancestors came from when we live so far away. Over the years we have even discussed the idea of moving closer to our ancestral territories. We exchange romantic ideas on learning Cree, harvesting from the land, getting a horse or two, maybe some chickens and driving off into the sunset. Then we would wake from that dream and look around at the life that we have built for ourselves on the west coast. We love it here and will probably never move back to Saskatchewan. And that is okay.

More than half of my life has been spent on the west coast. Where we live now on Cormorant Island, traditional territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw, is where my children call home. My youngest has no memory of living anywhere else. Community members have welcomed me, this lost halfbreed from Saskatchewan, and my family into their lives. We are forming friendships here that will last lifetimes. We laugh, we cry and we laugh again. Our stories weave together into a new narrative. It is this connection that makes me feel at home. All these years later, I have finally learned that home doesn’t need to be tied to a specific space and place. Home can change, like the seasons. So, I guess that I must not be lost anymore. I’ve always been home.

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-8

The waters east of Alert Bay. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-7

The waters of Northern Saskatchewan. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-1

Alert Bay playground. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-2

My eldest son takes a break while we visit my cousin on his farm. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-11

My youngest looking at all the eulachon inside the smokehouse. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-12

My eldest walking into the barn as my grandfather walks out of the barn. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-6

My boys and their friends playing in our backyard. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-5

My son and his cousin playing around the same slough I played around with my cousins. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-15

Ziplock bag, eagle feather, tarp and a black bear. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-14

Truck, chairs, velvet paintings and a moose antler rack. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-4

The next generation getting to know each other. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-3

My father locking the gates after paying our respects to our ancestors at the Green Lake cemetery. (SK)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-10

Gukwdzi (Big House) in Alert Bay. (BC)

amanda_laliberte_photography_tb-13

Visiting Wanuskewin Heritage Park that sits above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River. (SK)

-Amanda Laliberte

teacups and beadwork, lace and birch bark

I remember snippets of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland creeping their way into my childhood. I remember dreaming about falling down a rabbit hole. I remember thinking about how delicious a rabbit tastes. I remember the eating of the cookies and the drinking of the liquids, and the shrinking and the growing. I remember the confusion, and I remember Alice meeting the Mad Hatter. Laughable, slightly off, eccentric. Doesn’t fit in. Doesn’t blend.

Only years later, I recognize a kindred soul.

Looking back at that memorable scene – that Mad Hatter Tea Party – I find myself thinking critically, more and more, on this. An outsider falling into another world and getting frustrated when the rules and structures don’t make sense, trying to implement their sense of propriety on the matters. Sounds familiar, eh.

It was with this little idea that a talented crew and I started dreaming up a creative session, featuring a Métis youth from Duck Lake. I first noticed Danitra thanks to Facebook. Her Grandma is one of my Mom’s high school friends, and she wore this stunning yellow gown for her graduation. I quickly creeped her and asked her Grandma to give Danitra my cell, and we went from there.

With an all-Indigenous team (hair by Shayla Weisbrot of The Salon 467, Duck Lake and makeup by Kacey Beaudry, MUA, Saskatoon), and with the multi-talented Alexandra George (former guest blogger) as our behind-the-scenes photographer and set designer, we managed to create a little bit of magic.

A little bit of Indigenous magic.

And I think it was from the stories and community that this session carried. Nothing I do comes without stories. Shayla tied sweetgrass from my various journey’s into Danitra’s hair as we sat around her kitchen table, sipping coffee. Kacey and her pile of makeup stood in front of the house where we would run around with our cousins, laughing as my cousin Alex jumped on the wooden table to start decorating the set. We integrated a beaded teabag from Catherine Blackburn (former guest blogger). We rocked earrings from Savage Rose, and decorated the set with beadwork from Beads, Rhymes, Life. We were borrowed a beautiful birch bark basket from Silver Wolf Trading Post. We ate local donuts and fry bread from the Beardy’s Gas Station. Alex created a faded and wrinkled Royal Proclamation, as well as planted teapots full of succulents. She put together a bouquet of wild, dried flowers and found feathers. I used sage gifted to me by the Women’s Shelter from Walpole Island, On. My late Grandma’s camera was snuck in there, as was a crystal sugar cube dish, reminiscent of the one that we used to sneak candy out of at my late Grandparent’s house. We decorated a hat with my daughter’s Métis sash and a hawk feather from a friend. We were on our land, land that my mom was raised on. My Aunt and Uncle laughed and teased us, helping us with the roses, the moving of tables, and entertaining the neighbours as they stopped in to see what we were doing. Oh, I love small communities.

And as the sun set, and the session ended, we laughed together.

“Do you feel good about this?” I asked Danitra, shooting the last image.

“I feel amazing. I couldn’t have imagined this.”

 MadHatter_0001MadHatter_0002MadHatter_0003MadHatter_0004MadHatter_0005MadHatter_0006MadHatter_0007MadHatter_0022MadHatter_0010MadHatter_0009MadHatter_0008MadHatter_0021MadHatter_0018MadHatter_0019MadHatter_0023MadHatter_0024MadHatter_0011MadHatter_0012MadHatter_0014MadHatter_0016MadHatter_0026

 – tenille campbell

The Process of Beadwork – Catherine Blackburn

I pour the beads out of the small plastic bags into separate piles on an old tea towel. Bright bags in every colour litter the dining room table as the odd bead rolls off the edge, bouncing on the floor as it finally comes to a stop somewhere by my feet. This has become all very common the last few months as I work to complete projects, while new ones percolate in my mind. The process can be both therapeutic and overwhelming, yet when I make the last stitch…my oh my…oh so gratifying.

I sit here and try to gather my thoughts, telling myself to relax and just speak truthfully, as I answer some of those questions about why it is I do what I do, and also how to find the perfect words that someone may hold dear in their journey. The over-analyzing sometimes unbearable. My anxiety can often get the best of me.

Catherine2016_40_WEB

I was born in Ile a la Crosse, Saskatchewan, where the closest hospital exists in proximity to Patuanak, Saskatchewan, the place that holds the key to much of my work. I am a member of the English River First Nation. I am mixed blood, having Dene and European roots. I grew up in Choiceland, a predominantly white community in rural Saskatchewan. After attending university, I immediately travelled. I spent an incredible 4 months in Morley Alberta working with Aboriginal youth, alongside my dear friend Kirsten. The beautiful soul that taught me the art of applied bead work. I spent a year in Seoul, South Korea, and later 2 years in Taiwan. These are just some of the experiences that influence my work. These and all the moments in between.

Catherine2016_65_WEB

This new place of comfort includes both memories and moments alike. The smell of smoke from a wood burning stove will always transport me to the few memories I hold of my late grandpa Eugene. The sound of my mom’s laugh as she speaks Dene with her siblings on the phone brings me joy. Honouring my late aunty Tiny through learned jewellery techniques links me in ways I otherwise feel lost. Speaking to my grandma, as our conversation gets skewed and distorted with our language barriers, now makes me smile. Like the other day when we were somehow talking about my struggle with shingles (I don’t have shingles). I’ve grown to not be ashamed of how I don’t speak or understand the Dene language. I’ve welcomed myself, this strong woman with mixed blood and mixed experience. I don’t have the perfect explanations in response to heated conversations on socio-economic problems plaguing our people. I’ve also learned to accept that I don’t need to explain at all….educate yourself.

With this liberation, my work processes have become more freeing. Using traditional materials and techniques I’ve twisted the rules just enough to allow me to play. My bead work is photo-based, incorporating transfers, sometimes as a tool and others as a base for my design. No matter the final outcome my goal remains constant. The direct relationship to my European and Dene heritage challenges me to create innovative work that encourages dialogue between traditional art forms and new interpretations of them. These are the tools I use to create, and with those in mind that I hold near and dear to my heart, I am inspired to create messages of kinship and resiliency.

Catherine2016_29_WEB

And with that last stitch I take a deep breath. Ahhhhh, relief and satisfaction. A big smile and a much needed stretch of the back. I stand back and admire my work from all directions. At different angles the beads sparkle in shades of red, purple, blue and green. This beaded galaxy of colour forms a bruise. It’s colour and shape made apparent against the cream coloured deer hide of which it is applied to, the hide light in colour having never been kissed by smoke. The direction of beads twist and turn in application with every third bead being tacked down, reinforced.

I think about the story my mom once told me; how my grandmother once collected someone’s lost beads from the floorboard cracks of an old log cabin to start her first beading project. Now her table sits scattered with every colour of the rainbow while others sit stored away in cookie and tea tins.

I reflect on the reason for creating this beaded bruise, an expression of pain and continuous healing from the trauma of the residential school system. I think about the different voices created through my work; some speaking to raise awareness, and others reminding us all to tread compassionately. I reflect on the enormous task of our people to hunt, skin, stretch, and smoke hide, in all it’s knowledge and strength. I look down at my bead holder, the old tea towel, and notice that the beads so precisely poured onto it at the beginning of this project now lay scattered and mixed.

I pick up my project and realize its weight.

Catherine2016_75_WEB


Catherine’s work embraces two inspirations in her life-family and culture. Through the subject of family, she is inspired to express her own feelings and experiences which speak to the complexities of memory, history and cultural identity. Her art merges contemporary concepts with elements of traditional Dene culture, simultaneously exploring the significance and history of certain materials and their role in the fur trade. This direct relationship to her European and Dene heritage challenges her to create innovative work that encourages dialogue between traditional art forms and new interpretations of them. Through these overlapping themes of relationships, history, and identity, she hopes to weave a strong message of connection, kinship, and resiliency. Catherine encourages the viewer to reflect on their own experiences and to explore and question how we all define and appreciate the Aboriginal experience in Canada. – website 

Current Gallery Work: Bead Works, Slate Fine Art Gallery, Regina