This week's Teachings Tuesday is graciously being offered by artist Jamie Gentry from the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, who grew up immersed in culture and surrounded by talented artists. From a young age she was drawn to working with her hands, whether it was sewing, beading or weaving. For the last eight years, Jamie has been making custom moccasins for clients – each pair is cut, beaded, sewn and carved by hand. Her goal is to make meaningful connections through moccasin making, contributing a purposeful product to the world, building connections and sharing culture. Her belief is that by making a connection with the maker and the product, we are more likely to hold that product closer to us, and it is less likely for that product to end up in a landfill. Jamie’s focus is on style, comfort and durability with an emphasis on sustainability. Jamie was awarded the Emerging Artist of the BC Achievement First Nations Artist award last year, and this year was invited to create a paddle that represented what reconciliation means to her.
"It was challenging on so many levels: I had never created a paddle, so this was well outside my comfort zone, but also I love putting myself outside my comfort zone--so much growth happens there. The paddle is almost as tall as me, so a lot of space to cover, and the project was right in the thick of me creating the Blossoming Collection, requiring me putting my passion project on hold and finally take the time to ask myself, 'what does reconciliation mean to me?'
For the most part, I feel the word has become empty, and that became my inspiration. I outlined my designs and left them unfilled, unfinished, a massive work in progress. Just like the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
The design: we came from the land-- our language, culture, traditions, food, and medicine come from the land. Our responsibility is to return this fit of life and culture by caring for the land. I beaded embryos beneath the earth sprouting up, the final sprout is a human wearing a Red Dress, as a symbol of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. The embryos are orange to represent survivors and the little ones who never made it home from residential schools. they are circled in 24k gold beads and green beads to show how precious our children are to us. They are our future. The green represents hope for a better future for our children.
I added fish skin to the neck of the paddle well as pearls to represent the water. Water is a basic human need and right, yet many Indigenous communities do not have access to clean water...it's 2024!
The fireweed on the handle represents resilience-- we should not have to be resilient and keep rising through our struggles, but we are and we do. Our cultures keep us rooted and strong."