With its intricate designs and bright colours, Faith Echum’s beadwork is a way for her to express her creativity and Cree culture.
“I’m so grateful to have come this far with my beadwork. I never expected to be where I am today," she said. "It makes me happy knowing that I’m a Cree woman from a small community in Northern Ontario that has new and returning customers in Canada and the United States."
Echum, 25, is from Constance Lake First Nation and has her own business, Beadwork by Faith. She first started beading when she was 16 after her older sister Leanne taught her how to do it.
“Once I got a hang of it, she taught me all these techniques and I started to get inspired,” she recalled.
Drawing inspiration from her Cree culture, the surrounding nature and other artists, Echum makes a variety of items such as earrings, medallions, keychains or beadwork that is used in regalias. She works out of home where she has her own “little space.” During work, she says she needs good lighting, either natural or coming from a lamp, and she prefers listening to music and beading by herself without anyone distracting.
“I would just sit there for hours and that’s what I would like to focus on,” she said. “Instead if somebody were sitting there beside me, then I wouldn’t be able to have that much focus.”
Depending on an item and its size, it may take up to a few hours to finish a piece. She orders her supplies online from a Sudbury-based beading store or from Facebook auction pages. If she is making a medallion, she uses two different techniques – wrapping and a peyote stitch – with the latter one being more time-consuming for her.
Echum works full-time as a housing assistant in the community, so beading is a part-time job for her. During the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, she got laid off, so she decided to take on more orders and do beading full-time.
“People from all over the country were able to get in touch with me to place orders to help me financially since I was laid off,” she said. “I’ve given my clients some warning that there’s going to be a delay for when they receive their beadwork. I would offer tracking methods, so they can have those options and make sure beadwork arrived on their end, so they know where it is.”
Sometimes it is difficult to balance two jobs or she feels like she doesn’t want to bead due to lack of inspiration or personal matters, Echum said. That’s why she tries to relax in the evenings or bead every other day.
“I don’t like to bead when I’m feeling stressed or when I have some kind of negative energy because if I try to bead when I have negative energy, my beadwork doesn’t turn out okay. It turns out all bumpy or needles, material break,” she explained. “So usually I like to bead with a positive, clean slate, so my work can come out beautiful.”
“Instagram is really popular with the beading world, so I find that’s how I got most recognition and how people find my beadwork.”
Moving forward, Echum said she wants to bead bigger projects like handcraft moccasins or try herself in other craft like making a set of ribbon skirts with earrings or medallions.
“And one of my big goals is I would like to have a piece of my beadwork, at least, in every province in Canada as well as every state in the U.S.”
Laughing, Echum said she’d like to continue beading until she physically can’t do it.
“It’s so exciting having my beadwork in different provinces and states all over North America. Chi-meegwetch for the support," she said. “Also, a big thank you to my big sister Leanne for teaching me how to bead and inspire me to create. I wouldn’t be where I am in the beading world if you haven’t taught me."