Looking inside the box of beads was like staring into an eye-catching, rainbow-hued kaleidoscope: some shiny, some matte, some opaque, and some translucent, varying shades of blues, greens, purples, reds, yellows, pinks, and oranges. Once the group decided on which pattern to create, we dove into the rainbow to create our beautiful masterpieces, and one couldn’t help but feel awe-inspired watching the different colours chosen for the day’s art piece marry into a colourful and systematic design. All looked up to Leslie, the leader of The Dalli Collective, as she directed the group’s focus: guiding participants along the pattern and preventing works from becoming tangled balls of string, beads, and ribbon.
Run from July 2018 through winter 2019, Leslie VanEvery lead The Dalli Collective, a group for Indigenous youth ages of 18-29 who came together to learn the traditional Indigenous art of beading. Bead work in the Indigenous community is a direct reflection of oneself, and is an art form that also teaches many lessons. This project gave participants the opportunity to reclaim a part of their identities through cultural workshops, meetings with elders in the community, and storytelling. Leslie tells us that through this grant, “ArtReach helped to bring community together to learn and reclaim a traditional Indigenous art form”.
When asked where the idea program originated, Leslie shares that it was “from my experience as a young mom when I made my daughter’s first regalia. After completing the dress, I decided to bead her a belt to match. At that time, I had never beaded and did not have any family or friends that could teach me. I bought the materials from the local art store and started to figure out the techniques myself. Things went well, and I ended up making hair accessories as well. As time passed, I taught myself different techniques and discovered new materials, and my beaded pieces started looking better and better. I am really proud to be a self-taught beadwork artist and appreciate the journey, however I think that it is important to share my knowledge with others”.
As much of her own work had focused on the creation of beaded medallions, that’s where she decided to dedicate her teaching. Medallions are complex and time-consuming to make, requiring knowledge of various techniques such as the flat stitch design, edging stitches, and peyote stitching for the chain. Because of their intricacy and beauty, medallions are something that can be traded sold to others, and teaching youth how to bead them is both an entrepreneurial skill and an opportunity to build community.
When asked how the program and learning the art of beading has been received by participants, Leslie tells us, “There has been a huge transformation in their beading skills, and they’ve learned to apply their skills in new ways- merging beading with other art forms, and going on to create additional beading projects on their own after the program ended. Participants are taking the skills that they learned and hosting their own beading circles, passing on these skills and creating community”.
Already turning her own beading skills into opportunities to teach additional workshops and take on custom orders, in the future, Leslie hopes to expand the Dalli Collective into a social enterprise in which she can hire other young people to facilitate beading workshops for organizations and schools, and take on more commissioned pieces. She shares, “through this I hope to teach my daughter and other young Indigenous people entrepreneurial skills”.
Connect with Leslie via Instagram at instagram.com/lvanevery/