A Gwich’in artist in Yellowknife is helping people connect online during the Covid-19 pandemic — one bead at a time.
Tania Larsson, known for her traditional fine jewelry, is hosting virtual beading circles. Beaders check in with one another by video, share techniques and their favourite tools, and talk about their projects.
“It’s just so nice to have your community around you during hard times,” Larsson said.
“Even though we feel extremely alone in our houses, it’s OK to talk with one another and be very social.”
Larsson has been posting links to the video meetings on her Instagram page, where she has built an online community.
She said around a dozen people from across North America have joined both of the sessions held so far, including a front-line healthcare worker in the United States.
“It was nice to be able to open up the space for someone who was dealing directly with the pandemic,” she said.
‘It made me feel really good’
The circle is also a way to stay positive during uncertain times, Larsson said.
“It can be extremely lonely when such a drastic change is happening across the world so it’s important to hold each other up,” she told Cabin Radio.
Larsson said the idea to host a beading circle, which was recently featured in Vogue, came after a video chat with other members of Dene Nahjo – a northern, Indigenous social and environmental justice organization.
“I saw there was a need,” she said. “It made me feel really good to check in with my community and I wanted to open that up to other people.”
Larsson has always loved beading circles. She used to organize beading nights when she was a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Her schedule now is often too hectic to continue that but, with Covid-19, she’s spending more time in her home studio.
Melaw Nakehk’o, a Dene artist, actress, moosehide tanner, and founding member of Dene Nahjo, is among those joining the virtual circle.
“It was really nice to talk to other people and just work on our projects and just kind-of check in with each other,” Nakehk’o said, adding it helped take her mind off the pandemic.
Nakehk’o liked getting to see the projects people are working on and the different styles of beadwork and techniques.
“We were able to take a peek at each other’s work stations – and I found out that I was the least-organized beader in the group,” she laughed.
‘We’re all in this situation together’
Nakehk’o said the Covid-19 pandemic is showing the importance of all northern communities having good internet access, especially as schools are closed.
“We’re all in this situation together. Somebody in the smaller communities, like Fort Liard, is in the same situation as somebody in Toronto,” she said.
“For all of us, everything’s kind-of moving onto the internet or using technology to connect.”
Larsson said people who joined her beading circle, and others who have contacted her, are now starting their own online circles. She’s glad people are connecting with their communities however they can.
“This is just one way of being social during these hard times,” she said.
“I just encourage people to create their own space where they can hold up their community.”