Like many people during the pandemic, Misty Antoine returned to a hobby that she had set aside for several years. Unlike many people, however, she has not only continued with her pastime; she has turned it into a paying venture, and her work will be available at a craft fair for First Nations vendors which she is organizing for Nov. 27.
Antoine — a member of Bonaparte First Nation — says that during the pandemic she didn’t have much to do, so picked up her paints and began doing artwork. “I’ve been an artist for a while — I loved art in high school — but I put it down for quite a few years. Going back to it during COVID helped with my mental health, as there wasn’t much to do and I couldn’t go anywhere.”
She says that as she worked on her at, she thought “This is kind of fun. It’s a hobby, but something I like to do.” She began putting some of her finished works up on Facebook, and a couple of friends purchased items.
“I took some stuff off my walls, which was good as it was starting to pile up,” she laughs. “I ended up selling a lot of my works, to people as far away as Vancouver and Saskatchewan.”
Antoine works with acrylic paints, and her creations start with paint pouring to create a marbled background. “I do the acrylic pouring first, then look at a piece and think of ideas. Do I want to put a bear or a wolf there?”
She also does custom pieces. “Sometimes people want a Western theme, and I’ve done a few Canucks logos. I do all sorts of things. I’ll paint on drums, and I’ve had people request that. This year was my first time ever painting on a deer skull, and that was very different.”
Through her Facebook feed, Antoine began noticing other First Nations people doing beading and needlework, making moccasins and drums, and carving wood pieces. “The idea for the craft fair came from my work, and seeing other work. I know people have a lot to showcase and struggle with that, so I wanted to bring people together so they could show what they have and maybe get some orders.”
As far as Antoine knows, this is the first First Nations-focused craft fair in the region. “You don’t see a lot of First Nations vendors at local markets. My people need an outlet, and they need to be known. I’ve had many non-First Nations reach out, but right now I’m focusing on people who belong to local First Nations around our area.”
She says she’s had quite a few vendors sign up from Bonaparte. “There’s been a lot of word of mouth, and I’m reaching out and asking people to contact me. The more tables the better. If we get a good response I’d like to hold more, so I’m testing the water right now.”
The craft fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 27 at the Cache Creek community hall. Bonaparte First Nation is covering the cost of the hall rental, and Antoine says that vendors can get tables by donation. Anyone interested in being a vendor can contact her at (250) 682-3044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All are welcome to attend the fair, which in addition to a wide variety of First Nations arts, crafts, and artisans will also feature bannock, baked goods, and a concession. All COVID protocols will be in place, and proof of vaccination is required.
“I’m not doing this to make money from the tables; I want to help my people,” says Antoine. “And I like to try different things; I don’t like to hold myself back, and I’m trying to get out of my bubble. Painting is something that’s become my favourite pastime.”