January 3, 2018

Artist Profile | Tessa Sayers

We are so excited to introduce you to our newest talented artist, Tessa Sayers, who is the owner and designer of a lifestyle brand called Soul Curiosity.

She is Ojibwe, Cree, and Metis, and I met her a year ago in Portland. She was playing with the idea of launching her own business, and we are so glad she did!

We sat down with her to chat a bit more about how she got started, and what inspires her the most.

BB: Hi Tessa! Thank you for taking the time to visit with us. Can you tell our readers when you started your journey as a beadwork artist?

TS: I have always been creative. In my free time I have always worked on some type of art project. For most of my life considered my art a personal hobby. In 2009, Vickie Nanookasi Matanakiwan Wulf, an Ojibwe friend and colleague of mine taught me how to bead. I instantly fell in love with beading and quickly created my own unique designs that were reminiscent of Woodland traditional beadwork.

That same year, I became very ill and after three years of tests, I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. During this timeframe I immersed myself into beadwork and watercolor. Aside from my dog Tule, art was the only thing that brought any happiness during that time. It became spiritual medicine to my soul. I started to express my inner turmoil, anxiety and sadness along with hope and resiliency through my art. I used the teachings of the medicine wheel to start healing my autoimmune disorder, and as I got better, I told myself one day I wanted to share my experience and journey with others.

This last year I created the lifestyle brand Soul Curiosity. People can buy products I have designed but they can also learn about healthy eating, green beauty, poetry and other helpful resources to help them embark on a personal journey of self-discovery and healing. Each collection has rich story behind it, so it’s more than just a blanket or a legging. More importantly, I want Soul Curiosity to be a platform where people feel uplifted, hopeful, empowered and validated. I want people to realize that they are not alone; that we all struggle with something, and with courage, we can evolve into the best versions of ourselves.

BB: That is a great message Tessa. What is the general process that you go through to create your work?

TS: I got married this summer and beaded a necklace and tie for our ceremony. For large pieces like that, I usually set a side a month, with one piece taking about 40 hours from design to completion. I have a full time job so my personal endeavors have to wait for evenings or weekends. In the last year, I started learning Illustrator and Photoshop to help turn my floral sketches into digital files which then allows me to place them on products such as blankets and leggings. Just a year ago I was doodling and sketching and here I am a year later seeing my designs on products and sharing them with the world. I have just launched my website this last October so I am very new to all of this. I have a lot to learn!

BB: I love your digital floral designs - they are so beautiful. What inspires you?

TS: I am inspired by resiliency. In our darkness moments, it is easy to feel like it will last forever. I love the come-back story; the person who was pushed off the plank, swims back to the boat and becomes its captain. I am inspired by my own resiliency and that of others. Our Native people are resilient and that in itself is inspiring.

BB: Yes they are! What are your goals as an artist?

TS: My goal as an artist is tied to the mission statement of Soul Curiosty; to inspire holistic lifestyles through the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual elements of the Medicine Wheel. I want to empower everyone, but especially our Native community. My other goal is to continue to learn about my heritage and culture which I feel is vital as a Native artist. Being an urban Native is challenging when you want to connect with your culture. I would love to find an Ojibwe, Cree or Metis mentor who was willing to share more knowledge with me; knowledge that will not only inspire my work, but more importantly, provide teachings that I can pass onto my future children. My artwork will evolve as I continue to strengthen my own cultural identity. I am also planning to expand my clothing and accessory assortment so stay tuned for more products and designs!

BB: I love that idea that our businesses should constantly grow and evolve and adapt with the times. What does Native fashion mean to you?

TS: It means individual artistic expression. Art is so amazing because it’s a canvas for someone to convey their thoughts, feelings and values onto a medium that can be shared or worn by others. No two people are alike, therefore art is very personal. My art is an extension of who I am on a deeper level. To know my art is to know me, so it’s a vulnerable, yet beautiful window into my soul. I appreciate those who can honor aspects of traditional artistic styles, yet aren’t afraid to transform them into something meaningful and authentic.

BB: Who are your favorite Native American designers?

TS: So many! I have to give a shoutout to my buddy Bunky Echohawk. We go way back to my days at Nike N7. He isn’t afraid to push boundaries in a way that ignites thoughtful discussion. He has always been a great support to me throughout the years, helping me work through insecurities about my artwork. I have always respected the work of Louie Gong, Dorothy Grant, Peter Boome, Brent Learned, Serena Penaloza, Palani Bearghost, Toma Villa, Kelly Church, Jamie Okuma, Sarah Agaton Howes and Elizabeth LaPensee. Of course, Bethany Yellowtail. She is not only super talented but a very sweet and down to earth person.

BB: That is a great list! Lastly, can you share something that a lot of people don’t know about your tribe/home community?

TS: Here are some interested facts. A lot of people do not realize the Jingle Dress Dance comes from an Ojibwe vision. Growing up I was gifted a beautiful embroidered fancy shawl dress from my grandmother so I learned to fancy dance even though secretly I felt as though I should have been a jingle dancer.

Two important foods come from the Woodland tribes such as the OJibwe, Cree and Metis; that being wild rice (Manoomin) and maple syrup (zhiiwaagamizigan). I get both online from Native Harvest and the White Earth Nation, it’s so yummy! Another fact that most people probably know is that Ojibwe is a difficult language to learn. There are a lot of double vowels that make words very long (see maple syrup above). In college, my Native professor found out I was Ojibwe and the first thing he said to me was “oh you Ojibwes and your Ojiberish”. That was kind of funny!

And lastly beadwork. Many Woodland tribes traded with Europeans for glass beads which then made their way to other tribes across North America. When you think of Ojibwe, Cree or Metis, it is hard not to imagine the beautiful beaded florals!

You can shop her collection online at shop.beyondbuckskin.com and at www.mysoulcuriosity.com.