My name is Carissa Waugh, my Northern Tutchone name is Eke Ewe, after my great-grandma Emma Shorty. I am Taku River Tlingit First Nation belonging to the Crow Clan. I was taught how to bead by my mom Charlene Waugh and she was taught by her late grandma Elizabeth Ward.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I was laid off from my full time job and stuck at home with nothing to do. I had some beading supplies building up at home and didn’t really have time for it until then. I started to bead more, making mainly earrings and pop sockets. At this point, I had made an Instagram account (@eke.ewe) to post pictures of my artwork (I also paint with acrylics and I cross stitch, but the page ended up being beadwork). I had some friends follow my page and purchase some items I posted, but it was mostly custom orders. The more I posted and sold, the more I had encouragement to make my own Facebook page. I was very hesitant at first because I know there are already so many Indigenous artists in Yukon and I didn’t think my work would sell. With the support of family and friends, I opened my own Facebook page (Eke Ewe Art), and I have gained a small amount of followers that resulted in a few regular customers. I am so glad that I did listen to the people around me because I do make most of my sales from the Facebook page.
Eke Ewe Art is not an official business yet, but it is something I want to work towards. December 2020 I was able to sell my work at the Yuk’e Arts Market at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Center, it was the very first arts market to sell my beadwork. It was a great learning experience for myself, for example I will definitely be making a bigger stock pile of items that sell faster. This year (June 2021) I will have my beadwork sold at the Adaka Festival, I am very excited! I also will have a painting on display at the festival, but as a part of my Yukon First Nation Climate Action Fellowship.
I found that going into the beading business was a little challenging. There weren’t that many beaders out there that wanted to share their expertise or little helpful tips (a lot of gatekeeping in my opinion, but there have been a couple experienced artists that have helped me both directly and indirectly). It did help that my mom has been a beader for a long time with her own supplies. She helped me so much, whenever I needed anything she almost always had it. After the Yuk’e Arts Market, I realized I really needed a desk; I was beading on a small TV dinner table and I was quickly running out of room. My dad had bought me a desk for Christmas and it helped me get organized and I was beading almost every day after I got the desk. My parents and brothers have been a big part of my beading journey.
Because of my own experience with artists’ gatekeeping tips, I am always eager and happy to help other artists beginning their own businesses in the beading industry. I like that saying “Be that person you needed when you were younger.”
With the platform that I am given by my beading, I want to bring attention to Indigenous Issues such as; Orange Shirt Day and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). In 2020, I sold over 30 pins for Orange Shirt Day, a day dedicated to Residential School Survivors. When I posted each one on my social media channels, I also included a little fact about residential schools and Canada, and sent those along with the pins to my customers. The pins were sent to Atlin, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and of course Whitehorse. I have also sold a lot of MMIWG earrings and most recently a pair of Red Dress Earrings, and did the facts about MMIWG with each posting as well.
Beading is my medicine. During the pandemic, I noticed a trend that young people were drinking more than usual. I made a rule for myself; if I wanted to bead, I wasn’t going to be drinking (not even a sip or just one glass). I wanted to bead all the time so I wasn’t drinking as much as I used to, not that I had a problem before. A traditional teaching that I hold close to my heart and will always take seriously is that you can bead your feelings/energy into your work, so in order to bead good energy you need to be in the right headspace. There would be some moments where I would need to put the beading down, sometimes for a week or just a day. I always felt bad putting a project down at first, but I have realized how important it is to do. Self-care is a big part of the beading journey.
When I first started to sell my beadwork, I was gifting a lot of earrings. I think that was a great strategy for future-selling. A lot of the gifts were for birthdays and Christmas. I still gift earrings/pins; when the order takes a bit longer than usual or when I feel the right energy to. I love to order stickers and gift them with my beadwork and my customers seem to love it as well. I am eternally grateful to those who support my beading journey so I always try to say thank you in little ways.
I look forward to seeing where my beading journey takes me, it’s already taken me to amazing places.