Hi, tanisi and welcome!
My name is Bronwyn and I have been beading for 5 years now. I am a fourth generation woman beadworker in my family, meaning that I follow in the footsteps of many generations that came before me. I continue to walk this path that has been left for me, carrying the responsibility to learn, practice, share and teach beadwork. By continuing on the tradition of beadwork, I hope to honour my ancestors and pass knowledge down to future generations. Today, I combine my family's patterns, inspiration from archived Métis beadwork and my own designs.
First and foremost, I am a learner of beadwork. The process of beading is very slow and intentional. A pair of earrings can take anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of days, while bigger projects like mittens, gauntlets and moccasins can take days to weeks. The process is highly intentional as it requires a very close attention to detail, because you have to string each bead individually, and tack down every bead as you lay them down. Additionally, beadwork also carries a cultural aspect. For example, specific teachings are passed down through beading, beadwork can be used to tell stories and practicing beadwork can also be used to heal. In my own culture, beadwork can carry generational knowledge that can only be learned over time and through practice.
For these reasons, I work slowly in very small batches to accommodate the emotional energy that goes into making my pieces. I restock my online shop when I can accommodate it, which allows me to balance making a livelihood with respecting to the slowness and teachings of beadwork. In the age of consumerism and fast fashion this might seem unconventional, but beadwork is not meant to be mass produced. I am not a brand, I am a person making art and practicing my culture.
I grew up in Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am mixed Cree-Métis-Scottish ancestry on my dad's side of the family. We are very proud McLeods from Kinosewi Sipihk/Norway House, Manitoba and surrounding communities. We come from a long line of artists, beadworkers, embroiderers, knitters, seamstresses, trappers and hunters. On my mom's side of the family we are mixed European ancestry, who settled and farmed in Saskatchewan.
Growing up, I was deeply ashamed of who I was, being a Métis person. As I grew older and began to understand my culture and identity differently than what I had been taught through the public school system, I was determined to learn our traditions that had been lost in my family over the past generation; and push back against the idea of Métis people being historical and stagnant. I had been thinking about trying to bead for many years, however I finally put this to action in 2018 when my dad told me the story of how he tragically lost his beaded gauntlets, alongside many other beaded pieces, in a fire. I became very determined to make him new gauntlets - this idea halted shortly after I attended my first beading circle, realizing how difficult beading can be.
I practiced almost daily for two years.
As I learnt to love and enjoy beading over this timeframe, I was able to start creating my own patterns and designs. My patterns and designs are heavily inspired by my love for the land, and my relationship with it. I spend a lot of time outside, whether that's hiking, camping, canoeing and or just spending time outside in general. I am always curious about my surroundings and I'm always keen to learn about the plants, flowers, trees and other aspects that make up the natural landscape around me. In combination with my love for the land, I simply love to create, and make art. I love to try new designs and experiment with colors, patterns and materials. Most of what I make is inspired by my surroundings- what it looks like, what it feels like; which allows me to understand my own designs as organic and emotional.
I avoid confining myself and my work within a strict box of what it should look like, I always love experimenting and trying new things, allowing myself to change and evolve within my work, just as I do as I navigate life and it's journeys.
I finally finished the gauntlets for my dad in December 2020, nearly four years after I first set out to make them. I wasn't ready to make them when I began beading, and I needed the time to learn and build on my skillset. This is the magic of beadwork - it will come to you when you're ready; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I look forward to all the projects that are yet to come in my lifetime.
I use a variety of materials in my work. I will always prioritize making use of what I have on hand, trading materials with other artists, finding materials secondhand, or harvesting what I can from the land.
In addition to re-using materials, I have spent years researching and sourcing good quality materials that are made to last. I often use vintage glass beads in my work, as well as metal beads, 24kt gold beads and sterling silver beads. All of my findings are hypo-allergenic, using mostly sterling silver and 14kt gold findings.
While it is not always possible, I prioritize supporting Indigenous owned businesses and sellers when purchasing my supplies. I recently was able to purchase my first home-tanned smoked moose hide, from a couple who traditionally tan hides for a living. If you are Indigenous person selling beads, fur, hides, antler or other materials, please send me a message - I'd love to support you and hear more about what you do!
In addition to beadwork, I love camping, hiking, running - anything that will bring me outside. I have spent most summers of my adult life guiding canoe trips in Northern Ontario and Manitoba, and most recently I have been a treeplanter.
I also love anything that keeps my hands and brain busy - cooking, sewing, reading, drawing and painting.
I am also a graduate from the University of Winnipeg, with a BAH in Human Geography, with a narrow focus on both neo-colonialism and cultural geography.
Bronwyn Butterfield (she/her) is a self-taught artist focusing on beadwork. Bronwyn began painting and drawing at a very young age which has been prevalent throughout her entire life, and has paved the way for her journey into beadwork. Her family is of Cree-Métis-Scottish ancestry (McLeod) from Kinosewi-Sipihk (Norway House, MB), as well as mixed European ancestry. Bronwyn is based out of Treaty 1 territory, in Winnipeg, Canada, where she was born and raised.