Before I begin I want to take a moment to thank this month’s artist for such a powerful, honest and personal interview. Such a candid look at an Indigenous adoptee’s journey is rare and a real blessing for educating the collective societal ignorance surrounding this subject. I am humbled by Renee’s level of candor and trust and hope that this article honors both her art work and the experiences she has shared.
Please join me in learning about the art, journey, and life of this powerful Native Artist and blogger, they say beauty is only skin deep but I believe that we will all find an example of beauty that is also soul deep in the work and words of @beauxbeautyblog.
M- How long have you been beading and what got you started or drew you to your work?
R- I’ve always been into arts and crafts ever since I was a child- I even started out in college as an art major at Iowa State University, with scholarships in art and from being a minority student, but wasn’t really learning anything new- so I finished college later. My birth mother and I were both adopted, and she died young after being found in a burning car, so I never got to know her or connect with my own ancestors. Other Natives and artists kind of took me under their wing, and I first started learning to bead from an art teacher in school named Mrs. Kolthoff.
M- I know you also do beauty blogging, do you ever combine your beading & blogging or do you have plans to in the future?
R- I used to keep my bead work and Indigenous activism separate from my blog. But after actually finding my own ancestors a couple years ago, I began to merge the two, as it’s part of my identity. I lost a lot of followers, but had to be true to myself and others.
M- Do you ever make tutorial videos or is that something you may consider in the future?
R- I used to videos for our website, but to be honest, I dreaded them. Videos were the one thing I’ve always loathed doing, so I’ve taken a loss in income just to avoid them…lol!
M- Obviously when you sell your work you get compensation for your labor and artistry but do you get any extra reward more from the process of making your pieces?
R- The monetary compensation definitely helps with bills, especially after our house having flooded and hubby having been laid off from work. But, I’ve found that it truly is Medicine. It’s like a form of meditation for me, and very soothing.
M- What do you like or dislike most about beading?
R- Threading the needle!!!!!!
M- Several of your pieces make strong political statements that clearly draw people to your work, has your work always been activism related or did that evolve over time?
R- It evolved over time. Before I found out who and where I came from, I was oblivious- sure I knew of things that people deemed were in the “long-ago past,” and things such as the Trail of Tears and the Russian colonization of my Unangax ancestors, but not much else.
My adoptive family never hid my indigeneity from me, and always encouraged me to learn about my culture- each grandmother even got me a special baby gift- one got me an Alaska Native doll made with real fur, and the other got me a pair of baby moccasins. But, not being connected with my own people, it was difficult accessing information, especially before the internet evolved so much. I didn’t learn of the Aleut internment, boarding and residential schools, the Indian Adoption Project, and many other horrors until much later. Then I was in disbelief, then numb, and then I became very angry that society hasn’t ever really taught the truth. All this knowledge is very recent to me, in comparison with others who grew up knowing, so at times, it’s still overwhelming and difficult to process mentally and emotionally. I can now see clearly why so many are still angry, and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be angry, too. So bead work with political messages regarding Indigenous issues is a way for me to channel that energy, and do my part to help ensure the truth is spread.
M-Which started first, your activism or your beading?
R- I did my first bead work as a young teen, before I knew everything had happened to my ancestors. I think I really started getting into it on a regular basis around the same time I found my family and started uncovering the truth.
M- Do you have any other creative pursuits or passions like painting, writing, cooking, sewing, leather work, etc?
R- Fine art was my original love- painting and drawing, which I still do once in a while, but not as often as I’d like. I also had 13 years of piano lessons when I was young, but no time anymore…lol.
M- What’s the best beading advice you’ve received or is their any advice or warnings you wish you had gotten when you were first starting out?
R- Best advice has been from my St’at’imc grandmother, who was an avid beader when she was younger- don’t force a needle through a bead or the bead will break and you’ll have to start over. She also said to make sure to use the right thread- if it’s too fine, it won’t last, even if you stretch it first.
M- What advice would you give to artists who are thinking about bring activist messages into their work?
R- Be true to yourself, if you’re not, that will reflect in the quality of work. For example, if I were to try to bead something with a message I didn’t agree with (I’ve been asked but declined before), I would hope it would be subconsciously, but I don’t think I would use as much care, and wouldn’t put as much effort into the piece.
M- What is something a lot of people don’t know about you?
R- Something people don’t know: I can burp on command. Loudly. And talk while doing so…lol.
M- Who are some other beaders and artists you recommend to our readers?
R- Other beaders that are awesome-
Catherine Rocha, Yup’ik, she’s on IG @/ethereal.eskimo
Sparky Alexander, St’at’imc (ID @/straightofftharez)
Ma Hi (EBCI) on FB at https://facebook.com/girley.girl1)
and my cousin, Michelle (on FB as https://facebook.com/runsfiercely/).
M- Where can people can find you and support your work? (Instagram, Etsy, youtube, upcoming markets, fairs, Pow Wows etc.)
R- I’m on Etsy at https://etsy.com/shop/lovealaskadesign
M- What is the price range for your work (lowest to highest)
R- My prices range from free gifts for family and donations for certain causes, up to $200. Most items range from $40-$80.
This month’s beading term:
Peyote stitch- also known as “gourd stitch” is an off-loom bead weaving technique that can be woven as flat strips, in a flat round shape, or as a tube and is often used to border stones, birch bark or bead-work designs.