Beading and Leading with Love: Autumn Beardy Empowers and Inspires with her Craft
Beadwork is a practice that runs deep in her family and she’s making things of beauty and memories with her young daughter looking on, just like she used to do once upon a time. Autumn Beardy’s spirit name is Blue Cloud Thunder Woman and she comes from Fox Lake First Nation, a community 13 hours from Winnipeg. She’s a mom of a toddler and has a business called Autumn Dawn Beads which has her travelling all over Manitoba, selling her jewelry.
“I create pieces based on my cultural practice and personal experiences and things that inspire me to make people more beautiful and make them feel special. All my pieces are created to empower you and bring out the best in you,” she explains.
Having her own business allows Beardy to stay home with her daughter as a single mom. She creates and sells her creations alongside her child who loves all the pretty things her mom makes. Making a living doing beadwork was a dream she had since she was a little girl.
Her grandma taught her to bead at ten years old and the pieces she created became more and more detailed. She daydreamed about selling custom orders when she grew up and when the time came, she made her way in a world that pushed academic achievement and traditional employment. Instead of following someone else’s dream, she chose her own, something that still makes her happy.
As she follows the path she set out for herself, she feels confident. “The universe and creator will always let you know when you're on the right path. I always get little synchronicities, and little nudges from the universe when we know that I'm on the right path,” she reflects. A strong sense of deja vu confirms that she is right where she should be.
Sitting still and paying attention are hard for Beardy but beading keeps her hands busy so she can listen in class. After graduation, she would take 911 calls at the police station, beading between calls during her 12-hour shifts. She ended up enjoying the beadwork more than being on calls and followed that urge to start her business.
Her advice for students considering leaving their community to go to school or travel is encouraging. “Just really believe in yourself to make those connections with people. You will meet people that will help you along the way,” she reassures. On her journey, Beardy has met many people who have introduced her to people who have shared their ideas and resources.
Unfortunately, not everyone she’s encountered has been helpful and she’s faced her share of lateral violence from people who were happy to help as long as she wasn’t outshining them. Thinking about those experiences and wanting to steer youth away from those same struggles, she says, “Stand in your power. There's enough for all of us. Don't give into the ‘poor men’ mentality. You don't have to compete with your allies… You can gain a lot more from each other than you can ever take.”
“There's enough for all of us. Don't give into the ‘poor men’ mentality. You don't have to compete with your allies.”
What she’s learned is that collaboration will get you a lot further than competition and that the choices that you make in life set an example for the next generation. “Young ones are gonna see you doing what you're doing and they're gonna want that for themselves. Just let them know anything's possible,” she urges.
If she could send a message to her younger self it would be, “You're not a failure if you go off the beaten path. You're not going to be the best at everything right off the bat and that's okay. That's part of the process. Just trust the process. You're gonna be alright.” She’s learned as she’s matured that she’s her own worst critic and how hard the anxiety can be when you’re trying to prove yourself.
To keep her mental health in check, Beardy smudges regularly and grounds herself every day. “As a spiritual person, I travel every night and I just need to give myself that time in the morning and that grace to come back down,” she shares. In being fully present with her surroundings, she doesn’t dwell on what’s happened or what might be to come, listening to her body as a source of truth.
When she needs inspiration, Beardy looks to ceremony, powwows, other artists and dancers, her own dancing and the struggles she’s overcome. “I feel very inspired to share and help and create more when I'm expressing myself,” she confides.
In conclusion, Beardy shares what she wants Indigenous youth to know, “You don't have to wait for the perfect time. It's never going to be the perfect time. I'm a single mom. This is not the perfect time. But also when I was really young, and I had all the opportunities and all the time in the world and no one depending on me, I still thought it wasn't the perfect time. Just really take that bet on yourself.”
As she practices the beadwork that runs deep in her family, Autumn Beardy is setting an example for her daughter just like her grandma did for her. In perfecting her craft, she has time and flexibility to make things of beauty and memories with her child looking on, just like she wanted to do once upon a time. Through collaboration instead of competition, she’s found a way to move forward in community, leading with love instead of lateral violence.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.