Karen Russell is a community member who has an incredible talent for Metis beading. As part of our continuing focus on our community, we wanted to share her story. Karen was kind enough to answer some questions for us to share with everyone. Please enjoy our interview.
OMFRC: How did you start down the path to beadwork?
Karen: I started seeing and embroidering at about 9 years old. There was always sewing, crochet, quilting, and garment making in our family. My grandmother, mother and all of my aunts – four. Each aunt had something they did particularly well. Seamstress, crochet, quilting, rug making.
I learned at an early age to do these arts and continued into adult hood.
OMFRC: What inspires your work?
Karen: Inspiration for me is a funny thing, it’s a combination of past, present and future. But more specifically, tactile feel of beads, colors, variety of beads available, shapes of vintage Mikmaq beaded items, nature, thing about my ancestors and my sketches.
OMFRC: Where did you learn beading?
Karen: Approxamately five years ago, I took bead lessons, from my two best friends, highly acclaimed bearers, from tuscarora. I grew up near tuscarora, and niagara falls by. My aunt would take me to the little shops, the lines of streets going towards Niagara Falls New York in these little shops there were many many Tuscarora lindsy beaded pin cushions beaded frames beaded brooches beaded barrettes pretty much anything you could imagine that was beaded it was awesome for me as a young person to see all this finely beaded & sewn items
OMFRC: How long does it take you to complete a project?
Karen: It takes weeks many months to design, bead, and finish. These beaded blocks took approx one month.
OMFRC: Where do you do your beadwork?
Karen: I do, my own personal art, beading on canvas, demonstrations, private teaching, and traveling to women’s co ops, to teach beading and help women market their products and beaded items.
OMFRC: What kinds of opportunities has your art created for you?
Karen: Approximately two years ago, I was invited to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to teach raised beadwork techniques to the archival and preservation deptartment. I demonstrated at the Earth Summit, and then went to Belize to teach at three women’s co-ops.
OMFRC: What got you started?
Karen: I can attribute most of these events as a result of an illness a few years a go. I was healing from from upper resperatory issues when the idea came to me to bead my ideas on canvas. I had been doing this style for some years prior, but never with an isolated image, as in my butterfly, moth, art works. I put my first butterfly image on fb, and all has been history from there. I love beading as I can combine painting, beading, color shape, and, imaginary images, inspired from heat images from my Mikmaq culture and Acadian culture
I bead and work on my art pieces every day. Thank you for this interview, hope it has been helpful in many ways, my community, my culture and my identity!
Thank you Karen for sharing your story with us, and we look forward to seeing your next projects and sharing them with the community!