thursday hazelgrove

I learned to bead at night, at a kitchen table, from one of my oldest friends. And then...I couldn't stop. I'd stay up late because I just HAD to see how a piece would emerge. I made a lot of mistakes. I learned from my mistakes and I moved through a lot of pain more graciously than I may have if it weren't for becoming sober, for art and literature and honestly, if it weren't for my beads. It was like falling in love.

Beading is slow. It's quiet. It's mostly stillness. With Miyuki Delica beads there is this beautiful *snap* sound/feeling when you tug the thread and the beads move into formation.  And for all the "making" you might think you're up to, there is also an emergence that has very little to do with you.  It often feels like the Beauty is just borrowing your hands. I try to pick colours that look like they don't go together, and see what happens when you ask them to. I work things out while I'm beading. There's so much to learn from beading that the rest of life doesn't offer up so easily: patience, humility, practice, making mistakes, taking pause, unraveling, when to give up, when not to give up, the good company of stillness, solitude, and silence. I pray while I sew, or rather, the sewing is a kind of prayer. I sew prayers of protection into all of my pieces.

And I'm also a white lady, which is really important to acknowledge as a woman who beads in North America. I do not come from a tradition of beading. I am not Indigenous. I have no ancestors who beaded (I don't think). I learned in a kitchen late at night, from another settler. This art form, this practice has not been passed down to me along any lines of tradition or lineage. I am a white settler and an uninvited guest on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Musqueam xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. I work in and with the tension of settler colonialism as a white woman beader. 

I am an artist and a maker, I am also a high school teacher and my whole life takes place on stolen land. As Resmaa Menakem reminds inhabitants of the Americas, "something happened here." I want to acknowledge that something happened here, and it continues to happen here. We live on stolen land and the people whose land it is are still very much here in spite of our country's best efforts to entirely erase them and all memory of our collective and ongoing crimes against them.

That there is history is not the question, how we move with and relate to our histories, is. 

As I fell in love with beading--and it was like that, is like that, it's wild love--I was never far from the question: is it ok that I'm doing this?  I could think of lots of reasons it wasn't, and lots of reasons that it was.  The reasons competed with each other and often cancelled one another out and I was still beading because it healed me, but feeling like I shouldn't be.  So I did what all white people should do when we feel uncomfortable with the possibility of collusion with oppression: I did some research. One reading I found especially helpful was "Think Before You Appropriate: A Guide for Creators and Designers" by Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project, 2015, a research initiative through SFU. Another very important thing that white people don't do often enough, I posed the question "can white settlers bead?" to a broad audience through social media, to my friends who are Indigenous and, most importantly to an Elder.

To greatly oversimplify everything I learned (and am still learning): anyone can bead and lots of people from literally everywhere do bead however, my people (white people) tend to be predictably limited, insidiously abusive and extremely defensive. To bead respectfully from within an occupation, HOW one does what one does is of utmost importance. Following are principles that have emerged as the most true, and that guide my work, and my life: 1) one mustn't copy people (designs, colours, patterns, etc.), 2) one mustn't copy culture one doesn't belong to (designs, colours, patterns, etc.), 3) one must credit the source of one's knowledge, 4) one mustn't use racist or otherwise problematic language to describe one's work, 5) one mustn't misrepresent oneself, 6) one mustn't be a huge jerk when one's integrity is brought to question. We settlers have a SOLID track record of cheating, lying, stealing and never admitting fault or making amends. 

My goal is to work with integrity.  I am always working hard to identify and unravel my collusion with oppression as a white woman, which is important to me for the specific purpose of refusing to allow my body, my life and my work to be used as a weapon against my neighbours in this magnificent world; a world that deserves our full attention and utmost respect. 

I welcome your support, and I welcome your criticism.  

Big Love, Ursula Twiss