Meet the Crafters: Turtle Island Creations

April 23, 2018 | Halifax Crafters Society

If you love beaded jewelry, get ready to drool! We are so excited to welcome new crafter Valerie Armstrong to our Spring Market. Her stunning beadwork creations are absolutely perfect for the season! Her work is inspired by Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous beading styles, but she creates her own designs. In addition to earrings, you can find brooches, necklaces, barrettes, and pins, so there is something for everyone! Make sure you visit Turtle Island Creations at the show, May 5-6.

What do you make, Valerie?

I make handcrafted beaded jewelry rooted in Indigenous beading styles.

These pieces are made with glass seed beads, glass or resin center cabochons and can be very intricate in detail. I have also just recently learned how to do wire-work and have been making wire earrings with various glass beads and charms.

Can you tell us about your process? 

Each piece starts with a piece of pellon and usually a center gem or cabochon. From here, each piece has a different process. Once I know my colours, I try to create or design patterns for the beads and the finishings. There is no ‘science’ to what I do.

How long have you been making this body of work?

I first learned how to bead in October 2016, taught by some close friends who bead and sew their own regalia for pow wows. I learned very quickly and immediately began buying supplies.

What’s your background?

I am Mi’kmaq from Paqtnkek Mi’kmaq Nation, and I also have family in Ottawa where I grew up. I just recently finished an International Development Studies BA from Dalhousie University and I am currently enrolled in a self-directed Masters of Adult Education (M.Ad.Ed) program at St. FX University. Before returning to post-secondary school, I came from a background of photography and graphic design.

What is the best part about what you do?

The best part of beading is how therapeutic and relaxing it is for me. It is also very gratifying to be able to learn a craft that has been in Mi’kmaq culture for so many generations, being able to develop within, and learn from, beadwork. I also love to teach beading to other Indigenous women. I am grateful that I am able to share this knowledge with others.

What do you want people to know about you/your work?

I take great pride in my work and each piece of jewelry is made with the same attention and care. I am definitely a perfectionist and strive to meet very high standards of design and quality. I also try to offer a range of styles and designs so that there is something for everyone; I try to have a range of earrings from classy to elegant, to traditional, to fun with bold colours.

 What inspires you?

I get inspiration from natural surroundings. Nature gives so many beautiful colour arrangements. I am also inspired by looking at vibrant and beautiful pow wow regalia, other Indigenous beadwork, and traditional Mi’kmaq beading styles. Seeing other Indigenous talent and amazing skills within the craft of beadwork inspires me to keep being creative and to keep discovering my own style and flare.

How do you like to procrastinate?

Beading IS my procrastination!

And we are glad for that! Good luck with the show prep Valerie and thanks for telling us more about what you do!

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