four beaded pins with an orange shirt design
Photo: Carey Shaw

“Beading these pins was therapeutic.” Artist Marcy Friesen talks about creating Orange Shirt Day pins

Artist Marcy Friesen comes from a long line of traditional master beaders and creative family members. Recently, she collaborated with the Art & Design Store at Remai Modern on a set of beaded pins to mark Orange Shirt Day, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Saskatoon Survivors Circle. We chatted with Friesen recently about the new works and her practice.

Why was it important for you to create works for Orange Shirt Day?

I wanted to help in this way. Orange Shirt Day for me is remembering, acknowledging and forgiving. Beading these pins was therapeutic. Each one took me hours thinking about them and then beading them. My mind and heart worked together, focusing on positive healing thoughts. Each pin is a piece of artwork that turned into heartwork. 

Describe what your process was like for creating the Orange Shirt Day pins. Were there any unexpected challenges?

My challenge was, how can I make these different than the ones I had made in the past. I prayed about them and wanted them to be special. They are each very different and are made with family members on my heart. Each pin has a title and two of them are beaded with blue background representing tears. They are definitely heartwork. 

What kinds of themes are you exploring in your work right now?

Right now I’m pulling memories and stories from my past and creating based on what is currently happening in the world around me. The themes of my work have been revolving around mental health, racism and stereotyping.  The main thought rolling around my head is that no one is better than anyone and also no one is lesser than anyone. We are all created the same and until we recognize this we will continue to have the same struggles. 

What are you working on now or what are you planning on working on this fall/winter?

Right now I’m working on some beaded face images and my plan is to branch out to create more beaded body pieces. I’m also working on some photography that incorporates beaded smoking fish.  I have other ideas forming and will begin them when the time is right for me.

Marcy Friesen on Instagram @beadartistthoughtsmarcyfriesen

How do you find inspiration for your work? Are there any artists inspiring you right now?

I am constantly praying for new ideas and have been beyond blessed with new ideas.  I also find inspiration from the land that I live on – Treaty 6 land is full of beauty and the freedom for me to create. I am inspired by many amazing artists: Ruth Cuthand, Catherine Blackburn, Nathalie Bertin, Lisa Shepherd & Cynthia Boehm.

In addition to Friesen’s original beaded works, the Art & Design Store also created enamel Orange Shirt Day pins inspired by her work. You can see all items online here. A portion of the proceeds from these pins will also be donated to the Saskatoon Survivors Circle.

About Marcy Friesen

Marcy Friesen is of Swampy Cree and Welsh ancestry and currently resides on a mixed farm with her family near Carrot River, Saskatchewan. After visiting Remai Modern in Saskatoon, she changed her focus to creating “useless” pieces of art. Marcy now uses beads, leather, and furs in new and exciting ways to open discussions on mental health issues. Her piece Muskrat Tears was included in Montreal’s Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA) from April to June 2020, and two of her beaded COVID-19 masks were on view at the Whyte Museum in Banff from September 24, 2020-January 17, 2021.

Instagram: @beadartistthoughtsmarcyfriesen
Gallery: Latiesha Fazakas – Fazakas Gallery