Rings will be Released March 29th, 2018!
Furthermore, I do have a story bitter sweet story to share as well. Which do you want first the bitter or the sweet? Well, I'll just surprise you! I happened to get an amazing opportunity, I selected by one of the coolest Magazines in Indian Country, Native Max Magazine, to featured as "A Designer to Watch". An amazing honor to join other amazing women in their "The Native Women Arise" March 2018 issue, which I am all about!! Wahoooo!
But, I happened to be in the middle of the ocean on a cruise ship with no service or wifi. YES, that's the bitter, so I missed the opportunity! Whomp!
Instead of being super bummed (which I am, so don't remind me *cry face*), the one time I was thought I should totally just turn off. But, any missed opportunity or even rejection will never be just brushed off or wasted, but used as reinvigoration to energize, revitalize, and rejuvenate a refined state of clarity, so I'll share my magazine feature and "A Designer to Watch" spread here!
What tribe are you? Where did you grow up?
I was raised traditionally in a very small town the woodlands of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and enrolled in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. I am blessed with Lake Superior in my backyard!
When did you start creating?
My first creations were prepping the powwow trail with my Nana and Mom, when I was young. Sewing and beading on the weekends were the norm- our fabrics, threads, appliques, beads laid out everywhere.
I always knew I wanted to go to school of art, so when I got the privilege of a full state of the art metal and textile studio, I was living my best life.
My work has never meant more to me until that very moment we found out. I needed my medicine bundle, it was only a prototype I created a while back, but it hung around my neck with hope and faith. My family and community as a whole, suffered tragedy of losing two of our firefighters on September 26th, 2016, one happening to be my close cousin James Frederick Shelifoe Jr., 23. The simple necklace one-of-a-kind, hand-harvested, hand-cut, and sealed held the Ojibwe People’s, my cultures medicines: Tobacco, Sage, Sweetgrass and Cedar. The tangible strength that came from that necklace was powerful. I want to make that sense of hope for others in need, to help with another individual’s spiritual path, and to help one’s own well being just as a rosary or medicine man’s scared pouch would. It is more than beauty and adornment, it’s medicinal. My process now has meaning and I think finding that meaning, that specific audience is key. When you start on a healing journey, you are making a commitment to help yourself, your family and your community.
When and why did you start your own business?
During college, I had an amazing unique apprentice opportunity with a previous physic teacher turned sewing pattern designer, Made by Rae, she not only let me into her family but gave me the scientific method to business, ecommerce, and working as a creative today. As soon as I graduated, I created my website and wrote my first blog post.
My creations stem from the native hybridity, intertwining of my two worlds and developing a bicultural composite. The cultural blend is due to the authenticity of my Native American roots and the influence of European dealings. An example of how a piece of art can transform over time in response to cultural encounters. I create not only for aesthetic but functional purpose to provide healing opportunities and tangible strength.
What made you decide to create jewelry?
I’m very bold and my first creations were simply because I had visions of certain items, styles that I couldn’t find, afford, or thrift. My initial work didn’t have to much context, but now as I navigate my three current platforms - Tribal Public Health, Education, and Design, I am constantly inspired. Now I see a gap in Indian Country and I want to fill it with acceptance, awareness, modernity and tradish. I recently heard Brian Cladoosby at the 2017 NIHB's National Tribal Public Health Conference state three super enlightening statements - “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you", "If you wanna be a sovereign, act like a sovereign" and "Destroy historical trauma through education". The empowerment is so real.
How are your jewelry inspired by the environment of the Great Lakes?
As I write and answer these questions, I am traveling back from the ocean and I swear everytime I leave the woodlands I count every blessing of fresh water in my backyard. Growing up right on Lake Superior is the exact dream you are all thinking. *Imagine crystal clear deep dark blue waters, you can drink and open your eyes in. Fathom! I love celebrating four very diverse seasons and always strive for the raw and uncensored.
What are you currently up to? Any upcoming projects or releases we should know about?
Currently, I am about to debut my newest work - RINGS! I am so excited to finally drop a line of natural inlays, I have been steady anticipating these beauts, since I was in college. Mother Earth over diamonds. March 29th, 2018 at Midnight EST, I’ll have two types of rings available - Porcupine Quills and the Four Medicines in fabulously elegant styes.
What has been your inspiration lately?
My inspiration lately comes my privileges in education and my confidence in art. I have entered the world of Tribal Politics and Public Health. I was born Native and being born Native means your were automatically born into politics. Working in my Tribal Clinic has brought me the most success and challenges in my life so far. What keeps me continuing in the work of prevention is getting to assist in the healing journey of my family.
I recently was able to attend an ASIST - Suicide First Aid training. During the morning session on the first day, we split into two groups and had a talking circle addressing effects of suicide personally. We went around explaining how the ripples of suicide reached us all. We got to my Aunty, who also was attending the training and she asked if she could share something about me. Of course I didn’t think anything of it, I agreed. I assumed it would be about our extended family we both shared. She looked at me and explained to the group, “this summer, I witnessed my niece go through the worst bullying I have ever seen. A post that went viral throughout Indian Country.” I instantly was shocked this story out of all our shared trauma is the story that she thought was worthy to share. I never thought this story would be brought up or was enough to be addressed for a Suicide Training! She went on in Rez-Aunty-mode explaining the hurt from watching me being tormented online and how she was ready to fight, to throw up fists. I honestly was shocked by the women around me who met me with genuine warmth and concern. And for the first time since that post, I broke down crying because if I wasn’t as strong of a person, if I wasn’t as resilient. That post, those words could have broke me. And they did break my cousin, my family. Words hurts and can kill.
The now emotionally charged room, tears in most of their eyes now too. It was the first time I felt the hurt from that post. I told the women, the comments didn’t hurt me because the second I saw it, I was ready to fight too, the way I was taught, with my story. They would not take my voice, they would hear my side to a one sided conversation, no one WOULD SILENCE ME.
What makes your creations different?
My most undiscovered and my most passionate realm is as a creative. I have a storyteller soul and I tell my stories through wearables and writing. The creative control in every detail is what keeps me up late into the hours of the night. Merging beads, leather, and quills with the use of metal, plastic and other new world materials. My storytelling encompasses multiple medias, I strive for the beauty of my backyard, and favoring timelessness and simplicity. I create contemporary aesthetics influenced by my indigenous roots, the natural world, and a fascination of post-colonization. My originals are unmistakably my own, purposefully raw, lasting and hold an overwhelming presence of history and spirit.
What are your most popular pieces/designs?
And the winners are... The Long Pendant Birch Earrings takes the Gold, Glam Fan Quills Earrings takes the Silver and Mini Four Medicines Medallion for the Bronze.
You’re included in our Native Women’s issue, in which we want to highlight Native Women connecting and working together to arise. How do you help Native Women arise? Chii-Migwetch, I am so honored! I want to instill the same feeling of empowerment to others that I’m feeling now. I’m obsessed with the trend “Natives supporting Natives”. Yasss! Building warriors and real Pocahontas. This new age princess is strong and independent, taking the oppression of her mother and turning it into her motivation, not only for change, but for tangible action. This re-defined princess represents every shade of beauty. A hybrid of princess chic and warrior brave, the fluidity and balance of having it all. These princesses exist. Some of them are my role models, my educators, my family, and my friends. I am blessed to bare witness to these empowering women in my own life. The persistent and tenacious queens who work their butts off. The ones who carry whole families on their shoulders. The ones who conquer and succeed through adversity then, raise little ones to do the same! A real princess, the Warrior, shares her strength with others. We arise together.
Thank you for the trust and support this far,