Indigenous Beading as a Beginner

My name is Melissa and I identify as Ojibwe and European. My family is from Matachewan First Nation but I was born and raised here in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Indigenous beading….here is what I’ve learned. Beading is challenging, a beautiful art form, a great way to connect, and super satisfying when you’ve reached the end of a project and see what you’ve created. At least this is how I felt with my first beading endeavour.

Beading has been part of my journey in reclaiming my Indigenous identity. A lot of Indigenous people have learned beading techniques from their grandparents or other family members, but beading was not passed down to me that way. I started beading in 2021 and have only completed one piece so far but it is something that I will keep working at.

I have always admired beaded pieces from Indigenous artists I follow on social media and when I’ve been at pow wows or Indigenous markets. Their earrings, pins, and pendants are so intricate and beautiful. I used to think “I could never make something as pretty as this”, until I came across a post for a workshop to make a beaded poppy and thought “well, here is an opportunity to learn”.

The workshop was with the National Arts Centre and led by an Indigenous person. She taught us the flat beadwork technique, virtually, over two sessions. When we first started I thought “oh boy, this is going to be a mess”. However, the more beads I added, things started to take shape and I could start to see that this might not be too bad after all.

During our sessions, our leader told us stories passed down from her family. She told us how she learned to bead and allowed others in our group to ask questions and also share stories.

I learned that beading circles are a great way to connect with each other and the land, and learn about our culture through story. I am so glad that I gave it go because, as it turns out, I’m not half bad! And it was an excellent opportunity for me to connect to my culture in a new way.

As I continue on my beading journey, I support fellow Indigenous beaders by purchasing their beading kits until I improve my skills and will then create my own designs.

Here are some great beading resources to learn more:

A Thread Between Generations: Indigenous Beadwork From Then to Now

Do You Know What Beading Is?

Weaving Bees, Inspired by Trees

Beaded Strawberry Kit from Cedarilie

Thank you to guest blogger Melissa, a WPL staff member, for sharing her journey with beading.