Heather Stewart (She/Her)
Name: Heather Stewart (She/Her) - Cree
Location: Peterborough, Ontario
Bio: Born and raised in Kashechewan First Nation. I grew up watching my mother, kookum and aunties making beadwork, moccasins, and other traditional artwork for family and loved ones, as well as providing income for their families. At a young age I noticed some hardships that native people faced, one that always bothered me was at the small nursing station where my people couldn’t get adequate health care and weren’t treated with the respect that they deserved. I decided that I wanted to do something to help my people so I went to college in Peterborough to become a nurse so I could go back up north and be someone who actually helped and care for people. But, after starting my family my plans had changed and going back home wasn’t an option at that time. So, after years of random jobs and feeling unfulfilled I returned to doing something that has always been something I’ve loved since childhood: beadwork. I rediscovered beading about five years ago and this time I decided that I’m going all in. Beadwork save me from the colonial life that was destroying who I truly meant to be. Through beadwork I finally feel like I am helping my people in some way. When I first started beading again I started off mostly making fringe earrings, then taught myself how to flat stitch by making earrings and patches. Figured out how to do caribou tufting, even started dyeing and creating multicoloured caribou tufting kits for other people. With the patches I’ve created I’ve used those designs to make stickers, pins, notebooks, puzzles etc. I love incorporating natural elements into my work like, abalone, sweetgrass, wolf willow seeds, porcupine quills, caribou fur for tufting, deer antlers, dentallium shells, hides, furs and even fossils. In the last couple years I’ve been told by people that I’ve inspired them, which means so much to me, I hope other people can see through me and other artists how great life can be if you go all in with traditional art.
What inspires you to make your art?
So many things inspire me! I make a lot pieces that bring attention to important issues like mmiwg2s, residential school and atrocities the church and government brought to native people. I like making pieces that are kinda inside jokes that only native people would understand like the one ‘don’t be a shit ass’ or ‘Hello, I’m something else’. I like doing fanart pieces for whatever I’m into at that moment, recently it’s been: Last of Us, Wednesday Addams and x-files. I’m also inspired by nature, I love beading florals, insects, plants, strawberries and animals. I also have a dark side that loves Halloween and horror movies, so every fall season I spend a couple months creating creepy pieces.
Where can people find your work?
Instagram - @sweetgrass_beads
Facebook - SweetGrassByHeather