Shop A New Group Of Indigenous Makers On Etsy

November 14, 2022

This month, Etsy welcomed a new group of makers to the Etsy Uplift Makers Program! The Indigenous Artisans Collective is a group of over a dozen creative entrepreneurs—most of whom identify as women—affiliated with 10 Native or Indigenous groups from the United States and the First Nations of Canada. Together with non-profit partner Nest, Etsy is working to open the doors to ecommerce, offering tools and skills to help these makers run their shops on Etsy, where they can be discovered by 90 million buyers seeking handcrafted, meaningful items. This is the fourth community joining the Etsy Uplift Makers Program following the successful launches of the Gee’s Bend Quilters, Gullah Basket Weavers and Afghan Refugees Collective (also part of Etsy’s ongoing partnership with Nest).

“Etsy has long been committed to helping makers on their entrepreneurial journeys, providing them with a platform to turn creativity into small businesses of their own. As part of our Uplift Makers Program, which serves to provide financial opportunities to historic artisan communities that have traditionally lacked access to the digital economy, we are thrilled to welcome the Indigenous Artisans Collective to the Etsy community. Through their Etsy shops, these makers have the opportunity to connect with millions of buyers and earn a meaningful income, while telling their own stories and celebrating their cultures,” says Dinah Jean, senior manager of social innovation at Etsy.

We checked in with some of the fabulous makers involved in this collective—read their thoughts, and shop their creations—below! —Vita Daily

April Toledo, Juniper Dreams

What does this program mean for your business?

I’m hoping that through this program, we can really educate people, and hopefully, spread appreciation of our art forms. I also hope that Native Americans that don’t necessarily live next to a craft fair can see that they are able to find Native American products without traveling hundreds of miles.

Which products are you most excited about?

I actually got into beading as just a hobby. It was something just to explore myself. But then, I actually started making my children their powwow outfits. So I was beading moccasins, necklaces, and earrings–all for my kids. So it started, I think all those items that you make for someone, you know, they’re all meaningful. And so I try to carry that over to like every item I make now, I hope that this is going to be someone’s meaningful item.

How does your background/culture inform what you make?

In all the pieces that I make there is honoring to something in culture, whether that be in the design- geometric or image, the colors, or a combination of both. Once something is made then that item can be a piece of culture for someone to wear in their day-to-day life to carry the culture with them or to honor the  Native American and Indigenous peoples.  It is a circle of creation.

Tayler Gutierrez, Kamama Beadwork

Which products are you most excited about?

I have a pair of earrings that were specifically inspired by an old pair of Eastern Band of Cherokee moccasins. I like to look at old Cherokee beadwork and make it into my own designs. Cherokees have such a distinct style, like most tribes do, so I really like to take inspiration from traditional motifs as well as come up with my own original designs.

How does your background/culture inform what you make?

I think by practicing beadwork, it shows people that our traditions are still alive, ongoing, and continually evolving. We’re an evolving people. I specifically hope that the work that I do can have a positive impact on my community and inspire other Cherokees and Natives to take up beading.

Kathryn Hopkins, House of Hopkins

What does the Etsy Uplift Makers program mean for your business?

I have always dreamt of being a full-time designer and having my own retail shop. I hope the Etsy Uplift Makers Program will help grow my business and be more successful to live out my dream.

Which products are you most excited about?

The products I am most excited about are my Sea Coral Collection. The designs are meant to resemble corals, and are made of several types of beads and colors. I enjoy choosing the beads for each piece. I hope they can make good conversation pieces and help promote the importance of water and sea life.

How does your background/culture inform what you make?

I am Seneca, and originally from Western New York, on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, (which is about 20 minutes south of Buffalo). My father is a Cayuga Chief, and my mother is a community organizer which meant that I was raised with my traditional culture. I’ve seen many things, with my dad and his duties, my mother organizing and directing events, and of course her beadwork. I used to watch her and play with her beads and create beautiful barrettes, whimseys, and our traditional outfits.
As a teenager deciding what I wanted to do after high school, I liked the idea of fashion design. I further explored the idea by constructing my own prom dress. Which led me to pursue an education in design. I realized there’s a niche for contemporary Native Art. Being Seneca, I am also of the Iroquois and our beadwork is raised. This style is what sets us apart from other tribes and nations who commonly used flat beadwork. I love to mix contemporary materials with traditional elements and designs. As a northeastern woodland Native, my pieces reflect the environment and nature where I am from. Traditionally, our people use colorful statement pieces in the traditional garments, and this is where I can find much of my design inspiration. I am Native American, a Veteran, and a Gold Star Spouse—which means, I lost my husband in military service. Unfortunately, I think it’s been observed that a lot of veterans and gold star spouses don’t do so well after such loss and sacrifice, but I’ve really pushed myself towards healing. I allowed my experience to help build myself up, move forward, and heal. I have come a long way from where I was and now look forward to where my design will take me.

Samantha Jacobs, Samantha Jacobs Art

What does the Etsy Uplift Makers program mean for your business?

I never thought owning my own business was something I’d have enough time or inventory to do. Having this opportunity to sell on Etsy with the Indigenous Artisans Collective is the next step in the evolution of my art career.

Which products are you most excited about?

I create a variety of different handmade items; I do beadwork but I’m more well known for my moccasins. I also do a little bit of painting and make traditional clothing as well. For my Etsy Shop, I’m hoping to focus mostly on accessories– so, earrings, bracelets, beaded hats, and maybe some moccasins. Hopefully some baby moccasins, too!

How does your background/culture inform what you make?

A majority of what I do is culturally influenced. I have taken the time to look into a lot of our traditional pieces within museum collections and private collections. I incorporate these designs into my own work, but with a contemporary spin. Many of our motifs have cultural meaning, like skydoms—a half dome shape often seen on Haudenosaunee artwork and beadwork. Being able to share the beadwork with a broader audience–not just with Native Americans, but with the public–I hope that my art can be used as a platform to educate the public about who we are, where we come from, some of our cultural norms, and some of our beliefs. The designs and motifs in my work all kind of relate back to who we are, and being able to share that with everybody is pretty awesome.


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