Grey Birch

Empowering Young Women Through the Arts

October 2019 - June 2020

This project was designed to introduce a group of young women to the activities of being an artist and the process of starting a project all the way through to completion. The first sessions were aimed at learning about identity, inspiration, building confidence, project management and art specific techniques.

Through experiential learning, the goal was for each participant to learn based on their interests, strengths, passions, and what they wanted to take from each session. These will be unique to each individual.

October 15, 2019 – 6 participants - The first session was at the Royal BC Museum. The goal was to introduce participants to research methods and finding inspiration. The group was lead through a private tour with a well known Indigenous female artist Lou-ann Neel. She first asked the group to go through the gift shop and find three or four companies that produce native art work. We talked about appropriation and licensing agreements and she explained how companies such as Nations Creations work with artists, the benefits, how artists are paid and can demand more. Generally the artist receives between 5% and 10% of the royalties for their designs that are then printed on cups, t-shirts, mouse pads, scarves and then sold internationally. This is a very low fee for the design and we are including talking about fair pay. 

  • Research methods 
  • Licensing agreements 
  • Learning the basics of design

A mock up of the team logo for all project promotion materials was created to symbolize the group. This is an example of how to brand, promote and create excitement around their project or products.

October 29, 2019 - 6 participants - and three adults hiked up Mt. Tzouhalem with a cultural guide. There was discussion around traditional plants, and  the Hul’kumenum words were introduced and history of the mountain explained. The purpose of the session was to inspire thinking around identity. Part of being an artist/entrepreneur is being confident and knowing who you are so this session was the first stage of developing confidence within.

By giving the group time to walk in the forest and experience what is now called forest therapy, the girls were given the opportunity to open up and share stories. Some are struggling with trauma and family issues and walking in the forest provided an opportunity for sharing. By creating this space for the sharing, they communicated with support staff differently than when in a formal class setting.

We introduced art journals and each participant was given a book with some decorative paper, titles for each section and a description of the purpose.

  • The opportunity to work together as a team and encourage each other
  • Showing support and compassion
  • Learning the Hulkumenum language for traditional plants
  • Learning self-care techniques

November 6, 2019 - 6 participants - the session was led by Elder John Elliot who specializes in language revitalization. Some teachingsincluded how traditional languages are connected to ijohn elliotdentity and embedded in the language are many cultural teachings. When asked what one lesson the group would take with them they responded with “there are too many and I wish I would have recorded the Elder”. They suggested that we bring note books/art journals so they can take notes next time.

  • Identity and our languages
  • Building confidence within but also with culture
  • Consistency and perseverance

November 26 , 2019 - 6 participants - the session was led by Artist Luke Marston a well known Coast Salish artist. He talked about being an artist in BC and where his inspiration comes from. He shared traditional legends in the languages and there were many cultural teachings embedded. The participants were given the opportunity to attend the Friday night carving sessions with Luke at his studio in Duncan. An important part of learning to be an artist is spending time with senior artists learning as much from each teacher as you can.

  • Identity our languages and arts
  • How our oral history holds teachings and can inspire art
  • Art is more than just creating an art piece This session also included some time to work on their art journals.

Their art journals are a way to track learning and start planning the final project. Below are two examples of the art journals we have been creating. Each page focuses on a step that is important to project planning. We have colour pallets, research methods, thumbnails/ planning and then they focus more specifically on their project.

art joun

We continued to talk about the importance of branding as an artist and what that means. Below are some examples of logos and ideas we have been exploring.

December 10, 2019 – 10 participants - a weaving workshop about Coast Salish weaving techniques with 10 participants and how to collect and process cedar bark. Resources included a video with Brenda Crabtree

Each participant was given a piece of cedar to split and thin out. 

December 16 , 2019 – The studio visit with Totem House designs was cancelled due to their gallery being under construction. Due to the winter holidays and weather from December 17 – January 31, 2020 the program was postponed. February We have planned 2 workshops that will focus on building their art journals and finalizing an idea for the final project.

Themes include: supporting each other and building confidence. 

March 4, 2020 - The group of six gathered to work on the Art Journals and decided what they wanted their final projects to be. We will be learning how to weave cedar hats. The girls worked on incorporating either a gratitude flower or an I am flower into their journals. The girls talked about creating products that they would like to sell and create packaging for. Some ideas were making wool wolf tails and ears.

March 23, 2020 - Due to COVID 19 the classes have been cancelled. As the girls wanted to learn how to weave we have started to film sessions on the process of collecting cedar bark, how to process and prepare the bark and different weaving techniques.

April 1 – May 15 2020 - We had to shift the project due to government restrictions. The girls wanted to learn how to weave so we have been filming instructional videos. Although I don’t think traditional Coast Salish weaving could be a business in the western sence there are art galleries in the area that do buy and sell weaving.

June 11, 2020 An unexpected outcome of the project is one young woman who was initially asked to take some photos for social media purposes has created a filming company and is now working with local Universities to develop online content that focuses on Coast Salish teachings. She now has a website and is further developing training modules for organizations to use for cultural awareness training.