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Gitxsan artist creates wearable art

Carrie Davis of Prince George creates wearable art that carries her culture and tradition.
Gitxsan artist Carrie Davis creates beautifully beaded work.

Gitxsan artist Carrie Davis of Prince George creates wearable art.

Her intricate beadwork is her newly learned skill, which she has embraced with great enthusiasm.

Shalane Pauls, of the Tahltan nation, got Davis started.

“We grew up together and she sat with me and I told her I wanted to make a pair of earrings,” Davis said.

“Our first session was six hours and she would not touch my needle, she would not touch my beads, she guided me with her words and I sat in her kitchen and finished my first pair of earrings,” Davis recalled.

“The next day I went back, we made another pair and then she told me to bead every single day for two hours until I was comfortable with whatever pattern that I was doing and I did that for a year,” Davis said.

She’s been beading for about two years now.

“I don’t bead nearly as often but when I do I always challenge myself to learn a new technique,” Davis said.

“Beading for me has really been about reclamation and exploring my culture. It’s about visibility and allyship. Indigenous beadwork is not just for Indigenous people, it is for our allies to be part of our reclamation and reconciliation.”

When creating her artwork, Davis will access other Indigenous artists’ supplies if she can’t use or harvest her own, she said.

The backing on some of her earrings come from a Haida artist and her wooden stands she hangs her jewelry from come from an artist in Alberta.

“My brother is a hunter and he brought me antlers and I sat with a friend who owns a saw and we learned how to saw antlers together,” Davis explained. “It’s been a learning process. Beading is definitely endless and the more I learn, the more I touch animals and use hides and furs, bones, shells and quills – I use them all and I feel connected to them and the more I bead the more I learn about myself and the more I can teach my children.”

Davis has lived in Prince George for the last 14 years.

“I am a social worker helping mostly Indigenous clients who are at risk of having their children removed from their care,” Davis said. “So I advocate for reunification and keeping those kids at home. And I raise my own four kids and I bead.”

Davis is a member of the Gitxsan Wolf Clan, born and raised in Prince Rupert.

“I’m a hybrid kind of Indian,” Davis laughed. “My paternal grandmother is from Kitimaat/Haisla Nation, and my paternal grandfather is from Port Simpson/Lak'walaams. My mother is Gitxsan/Switzerland..”

When Davis beads, she puts a little bit of herself into each piece of artwork and it’s very personal, she said.

“The messages in the beadwork are creator driven, they are spiritual and I really have to pay attention to what thoughts are coming to me as I am doing my beadwork,” Davis added. “I feel that everything carries an energy within itself, so I encourage people to touch my work. It should feel good in your hand. Transferring positive energy is what it’s all about.”