Perlage: A Métis Voyage into the World of the Flower Beadwork People
Last summer, Eastman Tourism had the opportunity to work with four amazing Eastern Manitoba businesses to develop four Experiences. Borealis Beading was one of these businesses and has created Perlage: A Métis Voyage into the World of the Flower Beadwork People!
Perlage is a journey of understanding how the Métis became known as the Flower Beadwork People while learning firsthand the art of beadwork. Gather together and walk the property while Melanie, the owner/artisan of Borealis Beading, shares the stories and techniques of the Flower Beadwork People and expresses her own journey of connecting with her heritage through art.
Let’s dive in and learn more about this Experience with Eastman team member, Skylor.
Immerse Yourself in Métis Culture
As much as the Perlage Experience is fun, it is equally as immersive of Métis traditions and culture. Perlage offers a beautiful, eye-opening experience with each story, technique, and lesson flowing naturally. Melanie will take you through an insightful forest walk, help you navigate creating your beadwork, and spoil you with tasty, local food while sharing her journey, knowledge, and passion.
Borealis Beading is located in the homeland of the Métis nation in Ste. Genevieve. The property is surrounded by aspen oak forest that homes an abundance of wildlife, birds, and breathtaking foliage, vegetation, and wildflowers. As soon as you arrive, nature’s calmness and tranquillity wash over you, reminding you to slow down, relax, and take in Mother Nature’s beauty. Mel will greet you with warmth and excitement and welcome you with a fireside chat introducing you to Métis culture.
During the fireside chat, Mel will share personal stories and experiences. You’ll hear stories of Mel growing up in a close-knit French Métis family where family gatherings, delicious food, and helping hands were never in short supply. She’ll share her experiences throughout life leading up to her newest venture, Borealis Beading, what inspired her to share this art, the culture behind it, and the journey it has been.
Following the introductions is a scouting walk in the forest. This part of the day was fascinating to me as you really discover how many incredible resources surround you. Plants you see every day, some of which even get disregarded altogether, have a purpose. As Melanie guides you along this low-impact walk, she’ll point out and explain certain vegetation traditionally used by the Métis people – some used for medical purposes and others used for artistic means like beadwork. During the walk, you and your group will play Métis Bingo. You never know when or where you’ll discover an item, so stay sharp and examine the world around you! The walk is easy, but it would be best to dress for the outdoors and wear appropriate footwear.
Learn, Connect, and Create
Now what you’ve all been waiting for . . . beading! This activity will be a hands-on introduction to beading to understand how the Métis became known as the Flower Beadwork People and to learn some of the untold stories lurking behind the intricate art of beadwork. In the beginning, creating a beadwork masterpiece seems a little daunting, but with Melanie’s guidance and layback attitude, plus a little trial and error, you’ll pick up on the techniques and movements in no time!
Before you dive in and start creating, Melanie will showcase her latest works and touch on different Indigenous styles of beadwork. At one time, beadwork could be identified by regions based on the availability of supplies. Comparing the similarities and differences of each style is eye-opening. It truly shows how these simple, tiny beads can result in breathtaking art full of colour, emotion, and complex designs. The only limit is one’s imagination!
Mel will also share her process of creation. Starting with being inspired by nature’s treasures, the stories of her heritage, her loves and passions, and letting her imagination wander. Once she has the basics of her design, she draws it on paper, critiquing her mind’s eye creation as she goes. You and your group will have the opportunity to try this process, but don’t fret – you won’t be expected to bead your design during this session. If you remember from my blog about Pinawa Art 211’s Experience (give it a read after this blog 😉 They have a fantastic Experience too!), I am not the greatest at drawing, so my designs weren’t the best (very far from it!), but I still enjoyed this activity nonetheless! It’s all about letting go, letting your creative juices flow, and setting the stage and participants’ mindsets to one of art and creativity.
Now it’s time to start beading! Mel has prepared beading kits which include beads, needle and thread, and a small medicine bag as your beading canvas. The preplanned design we used was simple and perfect for our group as quite a few of us had never tried beading before. It provided the perfect amount of challenge while giving us ample time to hone the basic techniques and movements without feeling rushed, confused, or frustrated.
In true traditional fashion, our group shared our thoughts and stories while beading. Mel discussed more about Métis culture, answered questions participants had and helped us when needed. This is reflective of traditional beading circles where friends and family would meet to share stories and talk about their day while passing on the traditional art of beadwork.
I think any Experience is only as good as your guide and host that you’ll be spending time with and learning from. And Melanie does not disappoint! Her kind spirit, knowledge, patience, and humorous personality make for the perfect teacher. Her ability to connect with people through her openness and vibrant personality allow participants to feel comfortable and to ask questions. And her passion and dedication radiate off her, fueling her stories with emotion, igniting her creativity, and sparking the need to share more of her knowledge and heritage.
After completing your medicine bags, it’s time to head back outside, where you can enjoy sitting around the fire, exploring more of the property, and chitchat with your group as Melanie brings out the food. And boy, does Mel ever spoil her guests! The meal consists of locally-sourced bison jerky, honey, cheese, butter, homemade bannock and jam. The spread is delicious with rustic charm and an intimate environment as you gather to share a meal together.
During the meal, you’ll share your thoughts on the day’s activities, join lively conversions, and ruminate on the day, the lessons given, and the beautiful culture shared with you.
About Borealis Beading
Borealis Beading is owned and operated by Melanie Gamache, a Manitoba Francophone Métis beadwork artisan who started beading in 2015. Melanie has always been creative, but her talent for beadwork developed along with her passion for sharing the Métis culture and history related to beadwork. Melanie has grown Borealis Beading from creating her beadwork pieces to organizing and hosting Métis cultural learning experiences and carrying basic beading supplies required for you to start your beading journey.
Borealis Beading provides you with hands-on, creative learning experiences where participants learn the art and skill of beading, finger weaving, or quilting, along with the cultural and historical significance to the Métis people, also known as “The Flower Beadwork People.”
Borealis Beading is currently taking bookings for the Perlage Experience. Visit their website here to learn more and reserve your spot today! And check out the video below featuring Melanie as she talks about the Perlage Experience.