Naomi Smith, Chippewas

Title: Naomi Smith, Chippewas
Image size: 27 x 38 inches
Medium: Colored and graphite pencils, acrylic, watercolor and ink.

Naomi is a First Nations artisan from the Chippewas of Nawash Reserve in Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario.

Art and creative expression have been a part of Naomi’s life since childhood.  Her interest in visual art was apparent even before she attended primary school. By the age of four she was already creating realistic drawings of animals and nature. Naomi has studied fine art, textile design, metal work and computer graphics in college. Each facet of her scholarship refined both her creative and professional enterprising skills. Over time her awareness of her First Nations heritage forged a strong interest in Native American beadwork and historical textiles. A reunion later in life with her birth Mother, Alvera reinforced Naomi’s passion for beadwork. Alvera taught Naomi many aspects of Native culture and spirituality before her passing into the Spirit World. She gifted Naomi with her beadwork collection which included pieces made by Alvera’s own hand. A promise to honor her roots encouraged Naomi to become actively involved in sharing the artistic traditions of her people from both a historical and contemporary perspective. Naomi’s interest and skill in traditional beadwork techniques has made her a specialist in this area. She has studied traditional beadworking techniques from master native artisans and has practiced her art for some 15 years. Naomi now shares her comprehensive knowledge by teaching classes in both raised and flat beading methods based on traditional Woodlands and Iroquois techniques, styles and patterns.

Over the last decade much of her free time has been spent cataloging, restoring and preserving a wide variety of nineteenth century Northeastern Woodland beadwork. One of the inspiring consequences of her research is that she is now the humble keeper of a splendid collection of this material. She has organized several exhibitions of native artwork and selections from her personal collection have been displayed at notable venues such as the Canadian National Exhibition and the Lundy’s Lane Historical Museum. She also teaches classes in traditional beadwork at the Jake Thomas Learning Centre, Six Nations, Brantford and is an avid supporter of the preservation and continuation of Iroquois culture.

She also provides educational sessions through the Niagara School board. Her workshops and seminars on Native traditional arts aim at bringing First Nations cultural awareness within the schools.

Naomi promotes First Nations arts as a way of honoring the work of her ancestors. This personal pursuit and the preservation of Indian art & culture has become a most endearing and personal life journey.

She also represented her Nation at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

In my portrait of Naomi, I depicted her standing before a design of her clan symbol, the sturgeon. Naomi says the giigonh (fish) clan settles arguments between the crane and loon clans. They are the wise people who settle problems within the nation.

Her love of beadwork prompted Naomi to take over the reins of Black Tulip Designs, an online company that specializes in vintage beads, forms and contemporary beadwork.