Metis Artisan shows history through beadwork

Aboriginal artist Lisa Shepherd is bringing her amazing talents to the National Historic Site's Caledonia Days July 19-20.

Lisa Shepherd is a nationally sought after Metis artist and is known for her heirloom quality beadwork.

Fort St. James — Beadwork has always been a part of aboriginal heritage and some of the finest examples are coming to Fort St. James.

As a nationally sought after Metis artist, Lisa Shepherd’s one-of-a-kind artwork includes custom made moccasins, garments and jewellery, and will be showcased at the National Historic Sites Caledonia Days event July 19 to 20. For her, beading is a way of giving people back a piece of their own history.

“Metis, Inuit and First Nations all have one thing in common. A bit of our history has been lost so I work to preserve it,” said Ms. Shepherd.

Meeting people on her travels that don’t know much about their Metis background is a big reason Ms. Shepherd feels the need to share her art.

“Some people with a small percentage may feel it’s not worth it but its actually a huge part of them. For the people that don’t know a lot about their background, that first piece of beadwork is the first time they are holding their own history,” said Ms. Shepherd.

On a mission to spread knowledge with art, Ms. Shepherd does on-on-one mentoring classes as well as presentations at schools about her experiences being a Metis artist. She also teaches a jigging workshop which will be demonstrated at the Caledonia Days event.

As a member of the aboriginal community, Ms. Shepherd has a passion for Metis fashion. She attended Fraser Valley University for clothing design and worked in the fashion industry for a few years. Eventually she found herself gearing away from what was important to her so she quit and started working for herself.

“I still design, but now it’s on my own terms,” said Ms. Shepherd.

Working for herself has proven to be a cleaver move. Her Metis art has become recognized across Canada, and is known for its heirloom-quality. A few of her hand-crafted garments were used for the opening of the 2010 olympics and are currently being showcased in the Gabriel Dumont virtual museum of Metis history in Saskatchewan.

Ms. Shepherd’s art is not only known for historical authenticity but originality. One piece she made consisted of a black-and-white photo transferred onto cookum (grandmother) print, a floral prairie-dress style print. She worked beads from the Jasper trading post around the outside and it is currently being displayed at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum. She has since done baby-cloth bags and even a mans smoking hat with beadwork and a hand-tied tassel.

“It’s a part of our past and our history but it’s important it’s being brought into today. It’s teaching people who we are today,” said Ms. Shepherd.

To find out more about Lisa Shepherd’s Metis art visit her website at www.lisashepherd.ca.