The artistry of First Nations tribes such as the Ojibway stem from practical uses due to the nomadic nature of their lives. One of the most predominant art forms was beadwork which was applied to items such as satchels, belts and other items of clothing.
Beadwork of tribes such as the Ojibway consisted mainly of items such as porcupine quills, shells, stones, bones and animal horns. Quillwork was a sacred tribal art around which women formed elite societies. Designs were often inspired by dreams that were then formed into patterns considered the personal property of the artist. These ideas were considered gifts from the spirits.
When the Europeans came to North America, they introduced Ojibway and other tribes to glass beads which became the primary materials for traditional beaders in the late 1800s. As the nomadic life of first nations was quelled by the arrival and imminent takeover of the Europeans, the artistry of beadwork became intricate and more developed. Items of First Nations dresses, pipe bags, cradles, moccasins and other paraphernalia became items that First Nations’ women beaded.
The designs used by each tribe were considered “tribal property” although dreams were still considered a source of sacred design. Artists became more inspired to create designs and even borrow ideas to come up with more and more innovative desirable designs.
Beadwork was a time consuming skill that first nations created with much love and devotion for family members and friends. As white traders and later tourists began to see the work, an appreciation for the skill and artistry began to grow. Popularity of the art form made items with beadwork a desirable item for bartering and trading.
The beauty and tradition of beadwork continues today and is still produced by hand by experienced, talented First Nations’ artists. Native Artisan Audrey Tabobondung creates pieces completely her own, using the ancient tradition of the Wasauksing First Nation. Audrey, an associate at Chris Cardy Imaging, a fine art gallery in Parry Sound, can often be found working on her beadwork and fine pottery at 5 Miller St. in Parry Sound.