Beadwork

The beadwork of the Métis people was based on influences from several sources throughout the nation's history it became renowned for its unique floral designs inspired by Prairie flowers found in the Métis Nation homeland.

In the past, Métis women worked all day and then spent their evenings creating beadwork to decorate everyday items, like clothing and bags, that showed their love and pride in their family. These creations were so distinct that in some cases it was possible to identify the family of the creator.

Métis artist Jennine Krauchi learned how to bead from her mother. Her work has been showcased around the world including this exceptionally beaded octopus bag. So well-known for this beautiful and decorative art form, the Métis people became known as the flower beadwork people.

The Métis beadwork developed patterns that combined First Nations beadwork with the floral embroidered patterns introduced by French-Canadian nuns working in the Roman Catholic mission schools. The techniques and patterns of floral silk embroidery traditions from France were incorporated into traditional Aboriginal porcupine quill work designs and progressively began to reflect its own distinctive style.

Métis artisans in the Red River region used seed beads, silk, and llama threads obtained through the fur trade; as time progressed, they incorporated glass beads into their designs. The floral beadwork was typically placed against a black or dark blue cloth background, which was often trimmed with silk ribbons.

Beadwork was found on many items of traditional Métis clothing, functional hide, and cloth work. The clothing that was decorated included moccasins, coats, vests, leggings, belts, bags, and mittens, with the bags frequently containing family-specific patterns or identifiable colors. Other decorated items included tablecloths, wall pockets and cloth frames for religious pictures.

So prevalent was the use of floral design in Métis beadwork that the Dakota and Cree referred to the Métis as the "Flower Beadwork People." Even early 19th century European travelers referred to the decorative beadwork on Métis clothing. Many were so impressed with the beautiful creations that some articles were distributed throughout both North America and Europe as trade goods.

Generations of Métis women have produced countless objets d'art for their families, and for sale or trade. There are contemporary artisans who continue beadwork traditions today and continue to bead pieces such as moccasins, coats, and mittens. Jennine Krauchi is one Métis master beadwork artist who continues to keep the beadwork tradition alive and was a catalyst for Métis beadwork styles being recognized and revitalized. She creates clothing and undertakes replica work for many organizations across the Métis Nation Homeland and across the world, including the Manitoba Museum, Parks Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and other institutions in Scotland, France, and the United States.

Sources:

[1] www.louisrielinstitute.ca/art.php
[2] https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/material-culture

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