If Jessica McKenzie isn’t at her day job, she can be found beading.
She learned how to do it just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“My sister and I, we actually learned from an elder…It was very difficult, not super relaxing,” she admits.
“However, we pushed through it, and then we started doing earrings and pins, and we just found that it was truly a great way to show off where we’re from.”
The Cree artist is preparing to sell her creations on a new virtual Indigenous marketplace called Shawish.
Amanda Bernard, who lives in Toronto, created the site.
“I saw these Indigenous products are being created,” she explains, “but (there is) not really a platform that displays them as much as I would like them to be.
“So I decided to create Shawish, and the special thing about Shawish is that it’s absolutely free for vendors.”
Bernard sees it as a way to promote Indigenous artists across the country.
“I even have a lot of non-Native people come up to me to ask me, ‘Where can I buy beading?’ or ‘Where can I buy this?'”
“With Shawish, we actually verify all our sellers, so you know you’re definitely helping a First Nations person directly,” Bernard added.
Bernard spent months preparing for the launch and is excited by the response so far. In four days, 10 artisans signed up, including McKenzie.
“Shawish truly allows myself and other Indigenous creators to really be proud of the work that that we have created,” she said.