For Jessica Sanderson-Barry, beading has been a life-long passion. Yet when she attempted to turn it into a business venture, launching JShine Designs, she struggled to make a profit — despite over a decade of beading experience. The first time she rented a table at an event six years ago, she only sold one pair of earrings.
“I realized I was beading what was already out there,” says Sanderson-Barry. “I did the flat-back earrings, and there were so many other artists selling similar earrings, just in different style and colour. And I thought, maybe this isn’t for me.”
So Sanderson-Barry decided to take a different approach, and joined a program run jointly by the Faculty of Native Studies and the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta. In 2017, she was accepted into the Wahkohtowin Summer Intensive Land-Based course, where she learned the process of tanning hides in Susa Creek, near Grande Cache. Not only did the course help her come up with her signature feather and leather designs, it let her reconnect with the long-standing legacy in her family.
“It was like a real awakening for me,” says Sanderson-Barry.
“Because my grandfather used to tan hides with my grandmother, and all of their siblings.”
Her second collection of 30 pieces sold out instantly. And JShine Designs hasn’t stopped selling out since — whenever the seasonal collection is released on the website, the pieces are usually gone in less than a half hour. Last July, she resigned from her accounting job to run the business full time.
Sanderson-Barry’s creations are versatile. Some, such as Matriarch Floral Earrings or Moose Fringe Collection, are made with traditional home-tanned moose hide and designed to make a statement, while others, like the petite and delicate Four Direction Earrings with floral designs, are more suited for a casual look. Sanderson-Barry says she finds inspiration in the land around her and its people — including her late great-great grandmother, whose floral beading inspired one of Sanderson-Barry’s current designs.
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“When I bead, I feel like it comes through me, it’s in my bloodline. It feels like my ancestors are around me.”
She has also started to pass the practices she has rediscovered onto the other members in her family – including her four-year-old niece and several cousins.
“Keeping that alive within our family kin is really important to me.”
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