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Tania Big Plume | Artist of the Month | April 2024

My name is Tania Big Plume, daughter of Willard Cardinal from Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Ethel Jacobs from Tsuut'ina, and Cayuga of the Turtle Clan. Both parents are Survivors of residential school and my biggest supporters and they give me the strength to do anything I want in life.

My art is beading, my husband Chris Big Plume is an amazing artist who gave me the courage to step into the art world with my traditional beadwork. I was a child when I watched my grandmother Clara beading a child's traditional regalia and when it was done it was so beautiful with colours and designs that I knew that is what I am going to do when I grow up.

I have only lived on a reservation and that is where my art began. The community was my teachers and my family. I had Elders who were always ready to teach me every beading technique that they were taught from their grandmothers. I had the greatest role models in beadwork and they inspired me to teach it.

I've been teaching beadwork for over 25 years to all who want to learn from ages 5 years old to 85 years old. I also pass it down in my family to all my nieces and nephews and their children. I make all their traditional regalia for pow wows, I know how important it is to hold to our culture so I want them to grow up with a strong identity.

Along with beading regalia I would find animal skulls in my walks and I thought they should be revived. I beaded on them and painted them so they can be preserved.

Almost 10 years ago my husband encouraged me to bead a picture on canvas. For 2 years I would give them as gifts to my parents until someone saw them and put me in an art show. This led to entering the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase for emerging artists and I won gallery choice award. It opened doors to giving me the confidence to try new art mediums with beadwork.

I stepped into the art of fashion, more of a challenge for myself. My fashion is in Banff Buffalo Nations museum and I really enjoy beading and creating new designs. My nieces are my inspiration.

With all the dance regalia I made over 40 years of beading, I always wanted to bead a horse regalia and I did, it is in Banff Buffalo Nations museum. It is my pride and joy so far..

Art Descriptions

Picture: Child in my regalia

I began beading when I was 12 years old. My Elders were my teachers. Through the years I would find new teachers who would share their beading stitches and styles that made me want to share the art of beading.

Growing up, I was in rodeo and sports, so I would go through stress. On my down time I would bead, which would relax me. It's my medicine. When I bead, I'm reminded of my granny and teachers stories, giving life lessons, and seeing their amazing beadwork. It was a carefree time.

My husband is a great artist and he taught me how to paint. He inspires me everyday.

I started my art with traditional dance regalia and also making jewellery for local stores.

I was asked to teach to students, then companies and now I teach it at Banff Buffalo

Nations museum.

Art piece: Godparent

When we went for walks on the land I would find animal skulls. I would clean them and wait until the print comes to me in a dream. I want to restore them to the beautiful animal they were. I have restored deer, elk, buffalo, horse, and coyotes. A lot of my art material is recycled. I use feathers, antlers, quills and furs. Living in the country, you become one with nature and it inspires a lot of my art.

My godmother Ruth gave me this elk skull before she died to make something with it.

It's painted to represent a black and white photo style with the red beads to show the relationship we have with animals.

Art piece: Elsie

Beadwork is considered an art now. For years, they would classify my art as a craft. I never understood that, because it's one of the oldest art forms in the world. Beading has been around for centuries. Our ancestors used bones, berries, shells, gems, antler and stones to bead beautiful art.

In 2019, I was able to show traditional beadwork to the world when I was in the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase and won Gallery Choice Award my first year. I have since been in the Stampede art show three more times.

I'm privileged to show my art on grand stages and teach it to people who recognize how important it is to our culture and future generations.

This is for my grandmother and the next generations who lived on her land, total of five.

Art piece: Full beaded Horse Regalia

Art has no limits, and I was raised by Elders to use your talents. I will carry on everything I've learned and continue passing it down in my family. I realized that beading is the best talent I have. I deal with dyslexia and I have troubles with certain tasks, but I found my strength in my art. I was told by an art teacher that I wasn't good at art and to find something else to do. I encourage everyone to leave discouraging remarks and do what you love - use your talents, we all have them.

I put love and hard work in all my art. I want my ancestors and teachers to look down and be proud it's their hands that work through me.

My dad taught all his children to ride horses at a very young age. We all entered rodeos and have great horseman skills. He's my inspiration for beading this regalia. I'm blessed to have parents who raised me with so much love and confidence, who are proud of the work I do, and make me want to do it forever.

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