CREE-ATIONS in CLAY is a home-based studio specializing in ceramic objects, mixed media works as well as traditional First Nations art processes such as beading, porcupine quill work, moose hair line work, caribou hair tufting on hideworks.
I am a Manitoba Cree (urban), born in Kamloops, BC and raised in Vancouver's downtown eastside, an area sometimes referred to as "skid row." I come from a family of thirteen children and was pretty much raised in complete poverty where the only "visual art" we had hanging on the walls of our home at any given time was a probably a calendar. My interest in art began at a very early age. I used to spent quite a bit of time looking at the collection of the VancouverMuseum which was located at the corner of Main & Hastings street. I also recall forgoing breakfast in order to paint in a kindergarten teacher's class before school started.
I left home at the age of fifteen and supported myself working as a chambermaid and a office cleaner. In 1989, while still working as a chambermaid, I began painting store-bought ceramics and within six months was planning to sell my work at a local Native Arts & Craft Fair in Vancouver. I was short of funds and decided to make my own pots. I bought a small amount of clay from the CarnegieCenter located at the corner of Main & Hastings and with no instruction, (except for a documentary video based on the life of Pueblo potter, Maria Martinez), began production using implements I gathered from my kitchen. I spent the next couple of years researching Ancient and Contemporary Pueblo-style pottery and reproduced those images onto greenware and handbuilt pots.
In 1992, I applied and was accepted into the Fine Arts Program at LangaraCollege. After completing the program, I applied and was accepted into the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design where I graduated with a BFA degree in 1997. In 2000, I moved to Regina, Saskachewan to attend the University of Regina's MFA program in Ceramics. I graduated with an MFA degree in 2003 and returned to Vancouver.
In the past, I have been involved with the downtown eastside community and have donated a ceramic memorial bowl and two large hand-painted banners pertaining to the Native women who have died as a result of substance abuse and violence in the area, three of whom are my older sisters. I am very concerned about the loss of hope I witness and strive to make changes where ever possible.
I have also organized the Inaugral First Nations Awareness Day Event at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design which took place November 20th 1995, as well as the 2nd Annual First Nations Awareness Day Event which took place on January 16th, 1997. I felt that the event was very important to have at the school because of the overwhelming ignorance I and other First Nations students have experienced from a number of non-Native students. The event allowed us to share our visions and experiences. Both events were very successful and we received many extremely positive responses from people who attended. Quite a few people expressed their gratitude for being given a first hand opportunity to witness first hand the diversity of First Nations cultures while also becoming aware of the sameness of First Nations experiences. I feel that these events encouraged the First Nations students attending Emily Carr to feel a great sense of pride in our cultures. In addition to the two First Nations Awareness Day events, I initiated and organized the first ever First Nations Alumni Art Exhibition in 1998, where 44 First Nations artists had works exhibited in the Concourse Gallery for two weeks. I enlisted the help of Matthew Jacobs (photographer) and Todd Baker (graphic designer) to put together a super poster for the event and must say tht it was a pleasure to work with both of these talented alumni.
While in Regina, saw and experienced quite a bit...kind of felt like Saskatchewan was 50 years behind the times...in comparison to Vancouver, that is! Racism and racist attitudes are quite pronounced there, which I think is really quite unfortunate. It definitely was not a city where I felt "at home" at! There were just too many instances where I found myself on the receiving end of some racist remark, some look of disgust, or some comment where apparently I couldn't be trusted. Since Regina is also a University town, I found it very difficult to make and keep friends because as soon as the year ended people would pack up and move away. I kind of gave up making friends after the second year because it became too painful. I wish I could get back in touch with Marlo...a Metis girl I met...she was a bit older than my daughter and we met and became friends in a Cree language class. I hope she is doing well. She deserves all the best that life can give her!
One of the best things I managed to do while in Regina was to raise enough funds to gift eleven First Nations Scott Collegiate high school students with $155 each. There were no stipulations placed on how they were to spend the money. I wanted them to know that the money was raised as part of a community effort. I had made a number of ceramic bowls and decided to offer them for sale at my MFA Opening with the intent of donating the funds to First Nations high school students. People actually lined up to buy with works! I was stuffing cheques, and cash in the pockets of my sweater all evening long. It was quite a success! I made sure that the students became aware of this and I also wanted them to know that this gift was a community effort...that people cared! I was not prepared for their reaction and I definitely got back more that I gave. The experience is something that I will never forget. When I finally returned to Vancouver, I moved into my daughter's apartment and then we both moved into a co-op for about a year. Of course, life goes on and we both went our separate ways as adult Mother and Daughter's should.
Janine is a very intelligent, artistic and lives life to the fullest type of gal. I am very proud of her.
I now reside in Coquitlam with my two dogs and try to work at home more than not. I can't say that I am too much of a social butterfly. I actually prefer a solitary life and keep myself busy learning new things and applying that knowledge to creating new works.
LIFE WITH DOGS...
R.I.P. my dear, dear Scruffy - December 4th 2010 - She died in my car on the way to the vets. In October the vet said to start viewing her in palliative care terms and he said she had maybe 6 months to live. She only survived for two. I can't believe that she is gone from my life. I absolutely miss her with all my heart. ♥♥♥ Love you Scruffaluffagus...you filled my life to the brink and now that you are gone, there's a huge void that can't be filled.
I've been a volunteer with the West Coast Spay & Neuter Society (SANS), a no-kill shelter that rescues animals that have been abandoned and/or abused. I got involved with SANS in December 2004 when I adopted my first dog. Scruffy was 5 or 6 years old back then. She is a Miniature Snauzer/Yorkshire Terrier Cross. She is a fiestly lil dog who has a tendency to get skin, ear and eye irritations. She is my constant companion and tends to follow me everywhere.
Back in February 2005, I got a call from SANS asking me if I would be interested in adopting another dog. I kind of balked at the idea, but was told that the dog was so small that she needed to get it out of there so I agreed to pick it up. Queenie is a black & tan Chihuahua. She was 8 years old when I got her. She actually didn't have any fur on her hind end due to being fed a really bad diet that mostly consisted of bread. With home cooking, she gained close to two pounds. My daughter saw her before and after and kind of said: "Oh Mom, what did you do to her?" Just before this, I had noticed Queenie not only eating her food, but also Scruffy's. That issue is now in check. Queenie is a very sweet and gentle dog who loves to have her head and tummy rubbed...constantly...arrrrgh! It's ok though as I love giving her back the love I receive. She also happens to be the dominant dog out of the two. Even though she is really tiny, she is able to jump quite high and gives a scary snarl with gnashing teeth (well...gums now). It tends to work as a pretty good warning to other dogs. Oddly enough, Queenie and Scruffy do not interact with each other. In the first couple of days of Queenie's arrival they both got into a couple of vicious fights with me caught in the middle. They never did mend fences and just tend to tolerate each other's presence. Weird!
MY DEAR, DEAR MOM...
On January 7th, 2006, my dear Mom was taken to Emergency at St. Paul's Hospital. She had contracted an Ecoli blood infection due to a number of bugs that came about from having gallstones. She put up a courageous fight, but unfortunately after seven months of multiple setbacks she was sent to the Palliative Care Ward where she passed away on the eighth day. I was pretty devastated to say the least. I love and absolutely miss my dear Mom. I spent most of the seven months by her side and am so grateful for having that time to really get to know her. She showed an extreme amount of strength and she was always ready with a smile every time she saw me. We shared a lot of laughs together and I got to talk to her about a lot of things. There was one point where she reverted back to speaking Cree and I felt really proud of her. It actually made me come to the realization that no matter what the government and the churches did to try to remove the Indian out of the kids who went to Indian Residentials schools, it sure as hell didn't work on my Mom. She was born a Cree speaker and she left this life a Cree speaker. When she passed, I lost the most important person in my life. I know that she is still with me because I am part of her, just as she is part of me. It is a shame that Mother's pass on. I think that they should be allowed to live forever. It is very difficult to lose a parent and unfortunately we are all going to experience it, some more harder than others!