Being creative is in my blood. Both of my grandmothers were artists. Before my grandmother, Florestine McLeod, passed away, she made sure that her artwork was kept safe with my aunt. As I grow as an artist, my aunt occasionally sends boxes of unfinished work, mukluks prints, drawings, designs, and even doodles on paper bags! I love that I have these designs to reflect on, and in turn, I will pass them on to my child.
My mom, Joyce McLeod, is a huge source of inspiration. She allowed me to be creative as a kid and I think that has a lot to do with the way my mind works now. She never ever got mad if I made a mess while I was painting, leaving trails of paper cutouts everywhere, and even when there was hair dye all over her bathroom sink! She just let me be expressive in any way I wanted and I’m so grateful for that.
My first creative love was photography, capturing images to highlight Indigenous culture. My sister and I used to attend the Dene Nahjo markets where she sold earrings and I sold my photography prints. I kept sending jewelry ideas to my sister and one day she said that I should try beading too. I ended up making the biggest, floppiest pair of earrings! But I kept at it and got better every day. Early in my beading experience I made a pretty complicated baby belt for my best friend, but I took it as a challenge to improve my beadwork. Completing that project made me believe in myself.
Today, I love to make beaded jewelry, especially earrings. I incorporate elements from the land in each piece that I make, whether it’s antlers, sweetgrass, moose and caribou hide, porcupine quills, birchbark or sinew. I harvest all the materials that I need for my art, which has strengthened my appreciation of all that the animals and land have to offer, and taught me how much work collecting these materials is! Whether it is working on hides or preparing porcupine quills, we make sure all of the animal is used in a respectful, caring and loving way.
Beading and working with natural elements has been an immeasurable source of healing for me. It’s been a gateway to connect to my ancestors and a tool for me to learn new things. Each stitch makes me feel a little more grounded and I feel that art allows me to express myself in different ways. My artwork makes me feel proud to be an Indigenous person. It makes me feel happy. My ultimate dream would be to collaborate with my sister and my mom to create larger items together.