Elder renews community interest in beading
- Linda Mikolayenko
Robertson Trading in La Ronge has a hard time keeping up with the demand for beadwork supplies, and we know who is to blame.
“It’s my fault,” says Ida Tremblay with a smile. “I’ve taught half of La Ronge to bead.”
Tremblay is regularly called upon to introduce beadwork to students in local schools, and over the past number of years, she has also conducted popular evening classes for adults. In February, 18 people registered for the opportunity to create, under her guidance, their choice of mitts, mukluks or moccasins over a period of 11 sessions at Churchill Community High School in La Ronge. This past fall, she also led a class at Gordon Denny Community School in Air Ronge.
“For a while, there was hardly anyone doing it,” says Tremblay, so she is pleased to see the renewed interest in this traditional art.
Most of the participants in the adult classes are non-Aboriginal and most are women, although she notes that in her fall class, one man made a pair of mitts. Mitts are a good project for beginners, she says, while mukluks are quite a big job. Moccasins are the most popular, however, as they can be worn year-round.
A member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Tremblay has had a long reputation for excellence in beadwork. The Saskatchewan Arts Board has recognized her talent with Creative Partnerships and Indigenous Pathways grants, and a moss bag she created is part of its permanent collection of visual art. She also has no shortage of requests for custom items made with hide she has tanned herself.
“I have a hard time keeping up with the orders, so I started charging more, hoping to scare them away,” she laughs, “but that doesn’t help, because they’ll still pay whatever I ask.”
She is similarly regarded as an instructor.
“Everyone loves and speaks highly of Ida as a teacher,” says Michelle Biden, Community School Coordinator at Churchill Community High School. “She shares her knowledge and skills openly. They love her stories that come out between the teaching.”
In addition to organizing the classes, Biden has embraced what is a new art form for her, and is working on her first pair of mukluks.
For Tremblay, it is important that participants leave with the ability to create beadwork items on their own, so she insists that they practise patterns before they start their class projects.
“I show them how to cut their patterns from the size of their feet,” she says.
Still, she has had women take her classes three, or even four, times, so she takes advantage of the more experienced ones in her classes to help her pass on the skills to the beginners.
Passing it on is what is important to Tremblay.
“I wish more Aboriginal women would come to my classes,” she says, although, whenever she can, she is just as happy to help individuals who come to her home for patterns or instructions.
What keeps her motivated in introducing new people to the art of beadwork, she says, is “the satisfaction that I get from knowing that they will continue.”
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