ACCI had a real treat before the Christmas holidays; we had a wonderful young lady, Paula Menarick, come to and work on-site for an entire week on replicating a beaded hood. The amount of work that she put into this project was absolutely incredible. The beads that she worked with were so small, the details in her stitching were exceptionally precise, and the care that was put into her work was something to admire. We are very happy that Paula was able to make the time to work on this extraordinary piece for us.
The beaded hoods that we have on display are beautiful. They symmetry, detail, and precision of work in the bead patterns is something that is a must see when visiting Aanischaaukamikw. The beads that were used were so incredibly small; we were worried that the needle might be too large for the beads themselves! Much of the knowledge about beaded hoods, from the use of them to knowing how to make them, is no longer passed from generation to generation in Eeyou Istchee. Aanischaaukamikw has done a large amount of research with Elders about the use of the beaded hoods and having a hood replicated at Aanischaaukamikw provided a unique insight into the process of making a hood. Watching an artist demonstrate how to place these tiny beads on a needle and then attach them to fabric, we were brought closer to our ancestors with every stitch.
Paula’s mother calls her “sewing with a passion” and, in watching her sew, one can see why. As she spoke, it was evident that sewing and beading are where her passion in life comes from. Paula not only juggles taking care of a family and a demanding nursing career, but she also finds time for sewing every day.
Her memories of sewing with her aunts, grandmother, and mother filled the conversation throughout the week. These people were influential in her life; they passed on their skills to her so that she could continue a tradition. “Just thinking of the good times that I had while sewing” is what makes Paula smile. There must have been many fond memories, as she smiled the entire week!
She first started learning her craft when she was 6 years old. Her aunt started her out on the bead loom, as it was the easiest thing for her at such a young age. Her mother postponed teaching until Paula was 11 when she had a bit more dexterity; this was when she learned how to weave dream catchers. Her grandmothers taught her sewing, and to this day she says she is still learning. It is hard to imagine that with her talent, she still needs to learn. Paula is able to pass on her artistic abilities to her daughter, so the family tradition of sharing this talent is still strong in her home. When asked if she would teach her daughter how to make a beaded hood, she responded with a “definitely!”
Rob Imrie, Coordinator of Education