Métis-Cree beadworker honours family and community with new public art piece

By: Stacha Penner

A new public art piece, A vamp for my cápán, has bloomed under Artspace’s vestibule, just a short walk away from Red River College Polytechnic’s Exchange District campus.

Created by Métis-Cree beadworker Bronwyn Butterfield, this piece is a reimagination of her great-grandmother’s original beading pattern. Butterfield creatively experiments with colour and patterns in her own beadwork and felt it was meaningful to incorporate her great-grandmother’s traditional design.

“It’s really fun to come up with my own designs, but I feel like it’s so important to balance that with honouring and continuing family traditions,” said Butterfield.

The vamp in A vamp for my cápán is meant to represent the beaded fronts of the moccasins her great-grandmother, Sarah McLeod, sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company. 

“It means a lot to me to have the piece up in public in a way that wouldn’t have been seen in her [great-grandmother’s] time,” said Butterfield. “It feels surreal to have this opportunity to honour her.”

Butterfield deepened the design’s connection to her family by centering a traditional Métis five-petalled flower instead of the four-petalled flower found in the original sketch. 

“I wanted to include the five-petalled flower to honour the start of your journey with beadwork,” said Butterfield. “But also for my father and his four siblings.”

Bronwyn Butterfield (left) with Two Spirited community leader, Charlotte Nolin (right) at A vamp for my cápán under the Artspace vestibule in Winnipeg’s Exchange District./MIKE PETERS

Butterfield hopes the piece will spark interest and appreciation for those who aren’t familiar with beadwork and bring solace to those who are.

“I like that I can share this piece in a way that feels reciprocal,” said Butterfield. “It’s up for everyone to enjoy rather than being sold to one person or being taken advantage of. It serves a different purpose.” 

Kyra De la Ronde, a Métis Community Development student at RRC Polytech, saw A vamp for my cápán for the first time while visiting campus.

“I felt a sense of comfort [when I saw the piece]. I felt like I was meant to be on campus, downtown, and near the Exchange, always.” said De la Ronde. “Like my people were welcomed in these spaces.” 

De la Ronde said she has practiced beading her entire life. In recent years she’s taken this reclamation for herself, deepening her practice by sitting and learning with her grandmother. 

“I think it’s so important to have Indigenous representation in art spaces and to bring Indigenous art into nontraditional spaces,” said De la Ronde.

A vamp for my cápán is a part of Vesti_art project. Launched by Artspace, the project uses the building itself as a canvas to amplify marginalized voices in our community. 

The ribbon-cutting took place on Oct. 18. A vamp for my cápán is joined by a second public art piece, Queer in Bloom by James Turowski.