Melanie Gamache is a francophone Métis beadwork artisan. She grew up in a close-knit French family having dinners every Sunday at her Mémere and Pépere’s house, helping in the garden, checking on the cattle during calving season, and learning about the family morals of humility, respect, fairness, community, cooperation, honesty, truth, and responsibility. Teachings that she carries with her always. Melanie’s beadwork journey began in the winter of 2014-2015. She had no idea that sitting around the kitchen table one evening was going to bring her to where she is today with her business Borealis Beading, sharing Métis culture and history through beadwork.
When Melanie started her beading journey, she found it challenging to find people who were sharing beading skills and providing cultural teachings at the same time. She attended every learning opportunity (workshops, presentations, seminars, beading circles, etc.), purchased any book that was related to Métis culture, visited websites, museums and exhibits that had content related to the Métis culture and spoke to Métis individuals who knew how beadwork was connected to the Métis culture. It became her passion, or others might say a bit of an obsession. The more she learned about the art hiding behind beadwork the more she wanted to learn about the stories that came along with it.
“As my passion developed so did my beading technique and the type of pieces I created. I found that each piece of beadwork had a story to tell with its pattern, materials used, item created, and the person who made the item. Sometimes all these stories could be told and other times the stories remained a mystery. I found that while I was attending workshops to learn about beading there was a missing link, these stories were not being shared, at least not as much as they should be.
I understand that beading was an art almost lost and that sharing the Métis culture was suppressed for a very long time, at one time in the not-so-distant past it was illegal to share Métis cultural practices. But I wanted to help share the stories I was learning along my beading journey. When I was asked to teach my first workshop, I knew that I was going to start sharing the stories, to bring them back to life.”
Melanie found she needed a little extra boost to help her turn her passion into a career. She registered for The Art Of Managing Your Career – Indigenous Perspectives, Marketing and Motivation with Jessica Dumas, Artist Bootcamps on Grant Writing, and a workshop on How to Teach Art Online.
“The Creative Manitoba – Art of Managing Your Career – Indigenous Perspectives was a great program for an artisan like myself. I went through a few business plan development sessions and found them hard to incorporate into my business of beading. The CM program offered ways of prioritizing and organizing your art business in areas that an artist/artisan may not focus their attention on as much. Simple tasks such as bookkeeping, and scheduling were presented in a way that was easy to understand and to incorporate into an easy routine. I find they provide unique opportunities that are not found elsewhere, at least not that I have seen. They provided me with a way to look at how my beading can made into a business and how to do it properly. ”
We asked Melanie to name some key things that have helped develop her career.
Support – Building a business around beading and sharing Métis culture and history is not what I had envisioned for my future. It all happened so naturally for me but finding the support to build it was not always easy. Once I found the right people to surround myself with and encouraged me to continue it provided me with the confidence that was needed to continue. I basically built myself a village filled with like-minded people. They helped me when I have questions on the unknown, discuss new ideas as they formulate in my mind and sometimes, they are just there to listen to me talk.
Humility – This is very important to me. I have been fortunate to meet some wonderful people who have shared their stories and skills with me and its important to share these stories and skills, so they are not lost. You must also remember how you started and that not everybody will have the same drive.
Passion – I never thought I would be that person “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life”. It sounds corny but that is what I am doing. When I get to bead or talk about beading it fills me with joy, yes, I know Cheesy but true!
In July 2022, Melanie will be launching a new Métis cultural learning experience, PERLAGE: A Métis voyage into the world of the Flower Beadwork People. PERLAGE shares Melanie’s Métis story and beading journey through nature, beadwork, and food. It’s an authentic immersive experience for people who want to learn more about Métis culture by a Métis artisan. Melanie has come full circle from her family’s dining table so long ago, and now she is opening her doors and inviting you to come sit at her table.
Melanie Gamache and her company Borealis Beading have been featured on websites for Travel Manitoba, Bonjour Manitoba, Eastman Tourism, in an Entrepreneur Spotlight series for the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM), and recently interviewed for Landsby an online Canadian travel experience journal.