Sep 13, 2023
I wanted to provide a bit of an update on my beading practice, the future of White Otter, and the shifts that are starting to come about.
A few years ago when I started this journey, I was on the heels of almost ten years of community development work and I was burnt out. Beading was a way for me to make an income, rest and as cliché as it is, it truly was medicine. It was exciting and creative, and a beautiful community to be a part of. I truly thought I could just bead forever.
I think among others, I am now realizing the toll it is taking on my body, the hustle culture around it and the stress of having to create to pay bills is just simply not sustainable. I never wanted to get to a place where I resented having to bead. That was never part of why I started doing this but has become increasingly at the forefront.
So, I have been pivoting slowly over the past year. Diversifying what it is that I am doing to hopefully have a more sustainable practice and truly be able to lean into being a multi-faceted person with many different passions. To be honest, I probably took on too much, but I am also trying to create the life I want to live and the way I want to contribute to community all within the confines of structures not built for us.
So what does that mean?
I think many of you know we acquired a property we have been renovating this late summer and fall to contribute to this path forward. I would be lying if I said the behind the scenes of securing financing and permits and builders hasn’t been one of the most difficult and isolating paths I have walked, but I continue to see a glimmer at the end of it, so onwards I push.
In the Spring, it became time for to incorporate White Otter. I decided to turn the company into what I hope for it to become – kind of like ‘build it and keep crossing bridges as we come to them’ mentality.
White Otter Group Ltd became my corporate name – mostly because this is what was required of me to do continue to pursue this path.
Underneath that, White Otter Design Co will continue to function as my art practice. This was never intended to function as a ‘business’ but as my creative expression. For practical reasons of demonstrating my ability to have some sort of income, it now exists here. My hopes and dreams are for me to have more time to focus on creating visual arts pieces and continuing to create slow, mindful accessory pieces.
White Otter Consulting was borne both of the need for me to diversify my income, but also as a way for me to return to some level of community work. I have always loved policy, been passionate about building capacity and have strong administrative and advocacy skills. So - I am once again working on a contract basis for some communities – assisting in the fields of consultation, negotiations, protection of land and governance. I am trying to do this in a mindful way that helps me to pass on my knowledge to others while maintaining some semblance of boundaries to ensure I do not reach that point of burn out. I am also doing some work for post-secondary programming in the field of Indigenous business development. I am painfully aware of the flaws in these systems, but also believe there is good I can do here. I have never believed in advocating for self-determination and then criticizing the ways in which other Indigenous people choose to pursue that. I was long ago humbled about thinking I could turn massive institutional ships and so instead choose to focus my energy on making individual differences.
The most exciting part to come out of this is recognizing the need to build support networks among my fellow artists and remove some of the brutal administrative tasks that take so much of our time. About a year ago, I was able to secure a grant writer that has been helping me apply for project funding, develop business plans (a necessary evil to secure funding) and just remove some of the frustrations I was coming up against in these institutional spaces. After a while of working together, an idea was born. KLB Consulting has now partnered with White Otter Consulting to offer grant writing services and other packages to fellow artists. I have recruited an Indigenous grant writer who is being trained by the expertise of KLB to submit grants and funding applications on behalf of other Indigenous artist clients. This is not a profit driven idea, but one that allows us to be competitive in this space, offer employment, build visibility and address barriers. We have well-established artist advisors and hope to continue to build a team of kick-ass artists and administrators to help us focus on creating. Big dreams.
The final piece of the White Otter puzzle is The Aunte. The Aunte is affectionately referring to the big old building I have outside my window, which I hope will become many things. The main floor of the building will be a studio in the back, with a gallery/retail/gathering space in the front. It is an older heritage style building, so boasts big open spaces and high ceilings. The studio space will be for my own practice (bye-bye dining room table office) as well as for visiting artists. The retail space will be small but feature curated work from Indigenous artists.
In the Spring and Fall, the Aunte will operate as a non-for-profit charitable Indigenous artist residency, run by a board of directors that is entirely made up of Indigenous artists. The dream is to focus on collaborations, mentorships between established artists and mentees and families. We will have some that focus on artists from the traditional territories on which we reside, as well as Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island. My hope is that is becomes a place of inspiration, rest and opportunity. We have a lot to figure out still, but I want to build a strong foundation rooted in community from which to leap.
In the Summer and Winter, the space will operate as a BnB. This will offset some of the costs to build and operate the building, pay staffing as well as create opportunities for artists and communities. We live in a spectacular place surrounded by land, mountains, bush and water and it brings me a tremendous amount of grounding and peace – something I hope to share.
It has been an uphill battle. For every small grant we have received, we have lost ten more. It seems everyone wants to support the idea, but no one wants to fund the capital to make it happen. I remain hopeful. I am reminding myself to take it slow and steady and to do things as properly as I know how – no doubt with some stumbling. Thank you for sticking with me and reading this far, I wouldn’t be anywhere without all of you. With so much love, gratitude and fatigue (lol),