Artist Spotlight, Prairie Owl Beads
1. Tell us a bit about yourself?
We at Prairie Owl Beads are a Métis and family (4 sisters) owned and operated business. As an Indigenous business, we acknowledge and respect that Prairie Owl Beads operates on ancestral lands that are shared between peoples.
We create and distribute our beadwork on the traditional lands of the Annishinabe & Cree, on Treaty One Territory and on the Homeland of the Red River Métis.
Our mission is to ensure the continuation of the creativity and resilience of our Métis nation and culture through the traditional art form of beadwork.
Passion for beadwork, its history and importance to who we are and come from is something we, Julie, Danielle, Gabrielle and Roxane share as an art that was passed down to us and something we have also learned from each other.
We feel it is important to continue to share it with our community and anyone who is open and willing to learn.
We each started out as independent artists sharing our work in different ways, through workshops and selling small beaded items through local boutiques, we finally decided to join forces and incorporated Prairie Owl Beads in May of 2020.
2. When did you first start making jewellery and what was the first piece you ever made?
As we are four partners, our journeys with beadwork all started at different times in our lives. I, Julie, started beading at the age of 12. I was taught by a well known and talented Métis artist, Gregory Scofield, and the very first project I completed was a beaded poppy pin. From then on, I taught myself a lot of beading skills based on my previous knowledge of French silk embroidery, sewing and mocassin making.
We have also met and worked with multiple artists who have become mentors, like Jennine Krauchi.
For several years my beadwork remained very traditional and only more recently as beadwork evolves have I been working with jewellery.
As a business our items are a mix of traditional beadwork patterns as well as more modern styles of beadwork and our items range from earrings to slippers, to mittens and necklaces.
3. What inspires your creativity when making a new piece of jewellery?
We often work with themes as our inspiration.
Every time we begin work on a new collection of items we choose a theme we feel suits our current situation.
Once a theme is chosen, we will often find inspiration in research of traditional beadwork and older pieces found in museum and personal collections throughout the province and even country.
Our beadwork is often inspired by our natural environment and what we see in our environment at that point in time.
4. What is the single most important skill you have learned and why?
One of the most important skills we have learned and refined as a business and artists is communication and coordination. As a partnership between four people, it’s not always easy to coordinate four very busy schedules which are involved in multiple fields, education, sports, environmental studies and health sciences. It did take us a while before we could find a good system to make sure all the necessary tasks were completed. To overcome this obstacle, we have divided the tasks evenly, and we schedule meetings at the end of each month to plan our plan of attack for the next month. We have also done a lot of learning in terms of marketing and strategies to best use our social media platforms, however we are forever learners and are constantly finding ways to improve and to make sure we are reaching as many people as possible!
5. What challenges do you face in your work?
Challenges we face in our work are often related to pricing. As a business which sells handmade art work and jewellery, we are often asked about the price of our items and reasoning for it. We believe this comes from a gap in knowledge and education about beadwork, its history as well as the time spent learning and mastering this art form. Beadwork is an art that takes time to learn and countless hours spent with mentors and elders who offer teachings which help refine our skills. When buying beadwork part of the cost comes from the wealth of knowledge, history and practice that is poured into the creation of pieces by each artist.
6. What is your biggest achievement so far in your business?
An achievement we are very proud of as sisters is actually the creation of our business. This is something we incorporated and now run strictly on our own. We are also proud of the support we have gained throughout this journey and are proud to say that throughout sales and educational workshops we have been able to share our stories and knowledge to people throughout North-American, from all across Canada and throughout the United States.
7. Where can we find you to shop online or in-person?
We are currently active on 2 social media platforms through which you can shop or even just stay up to date with our current work, upcoming projects, sales and collections.
Facebook: Prairie Owl beads