Theresa Lambert is pretty sure she’s the first of a kind.
She grew up with the craft of seed bead-making around, and now she is bring her work, along with those of other artists and crafters to downtown Cumberland. In October, she set up Sage and Tree Gallery on Dunsmuir Avenue.
Lambert has been doing some research with people at Cumberland Museum and is certain she is the first First Nations female entrepreneur in the community. The archivist, she says, was unable to find reports of any Indigenous women to open a business before in the community.
She is Cree from northern Alberta. Her mother is from the Beaver First Nation, and her father is French-Canadian. She was the third youngest of seven children. In the first part of her childhood, she was raised by her aunt, and lived with her Kookum and Mosom (Grandma and Grandpa) on the reserve in Boyer River, Alta., then later moved back in with her parents and siblings.
As an adult, she and her family lived in Australia for a while, then came back to Canada, first to North Vancouver before settling in the Comox Valley.
While bead-making is in the family, she thinks of herself in a way as self-taught in that she has mixed influences to produce her own style.
“It’s kind of like drawing with beads,” she says. “Beading is hard. Even a single-strand necklace is time-consuming.”
Lambert offers more than her own work at Sage and Tree. Her space includes jewelry, prints, clothing and other items made by Indigenous artists, and her vision for the gallery is to create a space for Indigenous creations from across Canada, including the north.
“It’s been my dream since I was in my 20s,” she says. “Nobody makes art so it sits in a closet.”
Before opening her doors, she put together a business plan, which included taking some webinars through the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation. On one afternoon, she tells a couple of customers about some of her work using motifs such as hummingbirds, and they reply how glad they are that she has opened up her shop.
“That’s kind of what I want to do – break some of the barriers,” she says.
Part of her goal is to be a role model for Indigenous children and youth, and she is excited to be part of the other progressive trends taking place in Cumberland, such as the high proportion of female entrepreneurs. She has also served as a cultural presenter for the school district, teaching beading to the Indigenous students in Cumberland – a role she plans to continue – but she will also be offering tours of the gallery to the students and teaching them small projects.
Lambert also wants to use the space to introduce not only the work but artists to the community, so she will be setting up some meet-and-greet events in the near future.
“We’ll probably start with local artists,” she says.
For more information, see Sage and Tree Gallery on Facebook. The gallery is at 2726 A Dunsmuir Ave. in Cumberland.