Catherine Blackburn was born in Patuanak, Saskatchewan, of Dene and European ancestry. She is a member of the English River First Nation. Blackburn is a multidisciplinary artist and jeweler whose frequent themes handle Canada’s colonial previous, usually prompted by private narratives.
In her observe, Blackburn merges blended media and vogue to create dialogue between historic artwork varieties and new interpretations of them. US Secretary of the Inside Deb Haaland—the primary Indigenous cupboard member—wore Blackburn’s jewellery in her well-known shoot for June 2021’s InStyle journal, and the artist’s jewellery has additionally been featured in Vogue.
By working with beadwork and different historic adornment strategies, Blackburn creates an area to discover Indigenous sovereignty, decolonization, and illustration. Go to her web site here.
Artwork Jewellery Discussion board: Congratulations on being one of many finalists for the 2023 Susan Beech Mid-Profession Grant—what an accomplishment! Please inform us about your self. How did you turn into curious about making jewellery? What evokes your work?
Catherine Blackburn: On my maternal facet, I come from a household of conventional garment makers, beadwork artists, trappers, and fishermen who make the most of their distinctive abilities to dwell in relationship with the land. As a baby, on visits to Patuanak, I might watch as kin returned from searching journeys downriver with wild sport tucked away of their hand-built picket skiffs as Grandma waited on shore, knife in hand, prepared to start making ready all of the goodies that will be consumed or reused.
My Setsuné (grandmother) created unimaginable beaded clothes from these animal skins. I might watch in marvel as she skinned, stretched, and smoked them into golden brown hides, a course of that may take weeks and requires precision and experience. Afterward, she would station herself at her beading desk, stitching into them fantastically brilliant and complex motifs.
Once I create utilizing conventional strategies or supplies, comparable to smoked moose conceal or animal hair, I’m instantly linked to my tradition via a robust connection that’s rooted in ancestral data, sovereignty, and love. Simply as my grandmother created work imbued with intention and that means utilizing slow-fashion processes—processes outlined as labors of affection—I create work impressed by her. For me stitching is drugs, and once I sit at my beading desk, I fall into making in a method that isn’t thought-about labor.
Inform us in regards to the venture with which you utilized for the grant.
Catherine Blackburn: I used to be excited to increase into extra site-specific documenting that would come with a few of my wearable collaboration work from the newest assortment, Convergence. These works reside vessels on the physique, transferring current into future as carriers of ancestral knowledges. It will be important that these wearable works be documented and activated as I proceed to discover embodied connections to the land.
The scope of this venture is massive. As elements of this newly debuted assortment are in demand and turn into dispersed for varied exhibitions, it was all the time my hope to have them embodied via movie. My transition into bigger collaborative initiatives over the previous 4 years has been crucial to my observe and resulted in totally realized elements not attainable via solo exploration. For this part I might proceed to collaborate with different Indigenous artists. The geographical boundaries and funds required to work with these artists has me at a standstill in its growth. This grant would permit the time, journey, and assets to deliver this part to fruition.
How do you suppose being a finalist will have an effect on you? Will it affect you sooner or later?
Catherine Blackburn: I’m not certain. Maybe it would permit extra publicity to my observe internationally.
What excites you in regards to the artwork jewellery subject?
Catherine Blackburn: Adorning Indigenous our bodies has all the time been a lifestyle for Indigenous individuals. The suppression of those artwork expressions started within the early nineteenth century via pressured assimilation by the Canadian authorities and Christian missionaries. My work in wearable work explores the duality of Indigenous presence and absence via exploring ways of colonial erasure. On this method, adornment is an act of resistance. It’s a political assertion in its survival and thru its reclamation. On this method stitchwork is an announcement of energy in its refusal to be erased by the oppressive historical past of colonization, by as an alternative celebrating the continuum of Indigenous presence and id.
Have you ever skilled any frustrations with the sphere?
Catherine Blackburn: I really feel it’s tough for individuals to see beadwork jewellery as something greater than a commodity at instances. The sort of stitchwork and the supplies it’s made with go far past “product” and “commodity.” Their materiality describes historical past, drugs, and love for our communities. If you buy beadwork/stitchwork jewellery, you’re investing in an heirloom merchandise that’s celebrating tradition and honoring an immense quantity of affection and respect.
For hundreds of years this work has been devalued and seen as “craft,” when it is likely one of the oldest types of high-end, exquisitely luxurious couture work.
What path do you suppose artwork jewellery as an entire goes? Do you see any new and galvanizing developments?
Catherine Blackburn: I really feel that, a lot as with clothes developments, extra customers are curious about wearable “artworks” and sustainability inside their vogue selections. I really feel there’s extra of an curiosity in understanding the place your product comes from, how it’s made, and what story it tells. I hope that customers can proceed to study in regards to the artworks they put on and the deeper connections they provide.
The place would you want your observe to be 5 years from now?
Catherine Blackburn: I hope to have expanded on new modes of constructing that add to my wearable works observe, maybe shifting extra into transferring picture. Primarily I hope to proceed to search out pleasure within the making whereas having my works worn and celebrated.