Interview by Chalsley Taylor
Cedar-Eve Peters is an Anishnaabae visual artist and beader from the Ojibwa nation, currently based in Montreal. Cedar sat down with me to discuss the nature of her workspace and its relationship to her beading practice. We also grappled with a question previously asked on the dhtoph blog: “do we really need a designated space for work that we can just as easily do at home or our favorite coffee house?”
The transcription has been edited for clarity.
So how would you describe your lab space?
Very messy. Like right now it’s very disorganized.
Could you talk about where it’s located?
Oh yeah. My workspace is also my bedroom, so sometimes that’s annoying because I can’t separate workspace from sleep space. I guess it’s kind of organized. Everything’s in containers at least, but it just seems like things are all over the place right now.
What would you say the workspace itself consists of?
Mm…beads? You mean the materials?
Not so much the materials but the things your going to use. Like this chair, and that desk, the way it folds down, the cutting mat and the loom, your boxes of beads; these are all things that you need to get this work done.
Yeah. I guess I don’t think about that. Containers and shelves. Mostly containers I guess. A bunch of lights.
Not so much right now. [laughs]
Surface space must be essential being that you need to be able to see all these tiny beads.
Yeah, if the surface isn’t clean then I feel like I can’t think straight, so that’s annoying. But also, it helps in a way cuz I’m just like, stimulated by everything thats around.
Is that a positive to working in your bedroom?
No. [laughs] I don’t think so.
What are the core practices you’ve established to create your beaded work?
Like my routine?
I guess I’ll wake up, depending. Usually early like 8…I guess that’s not that early for most people but, from a person that used to wake up at 1PM everyday to now 8AM…
I’ll bead for like an hour or two, and then watch tv and have breakfast, and then do whatever I need to do, and then maybe sit down again around like 2 o’clock and start beading until like 5 or 6, or whenever I’m hungry again. So basically hungers the only thing that takes me away from it. But I try to wake up every morning and start something cuz I feel like if I don’t do it then, then I won’t do it at all.
Do you have to do any set up when you start something in the morning?
Well if like it’s messy like right now, I wouldn’t start. I really wanna clean that desk right now, put shit away. But yeah, I guess the only thing would be that I try to clear it off at the beginning of every new item, because if there’s like stray beads laying around, I don’t know, it bothers me. I have these set little piles and I wanna completely deplete each little pile before I move on to something else. Or I just put it in a bag and then thats when like the miscellaneous pieces [are made].
It occurs to me that you don’t have to like pack everything up at the the end of the night and then unpack; because you’re the only one using the space you can leave things out and then come back to them.
I imagine that is a big time-saver.
Yeah and even if I do finish something—like right now, I finished a pair of earrings but I haven’t cleared off the leather mat with the beads on it yet cuz, I dont know, I was just like, I’m tired and I cant be bothered to do this, so.
If you’re not beading in this designated space that you’ve created, where else does your beading take place?
If I’m at my mom’s house I bead in the living room cuz the table in the living room, its right beside a huge window, which is like the width of the wall. Theres a lot of natural sunlight, so I like beading there, and it’s amongst plants and stuff, which is cute. But when I’m doing the workshops and stuff that’s usually in the lounge of the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre at Concordia, so there it’s a bit different because there’s people coming and going.
Something I’m dealing with is that when I’m at home it’s solitary and it’s just my energy alone, you know, and a lot of the time I’ll just sit in silence and bead, like I wont listen to anything. But when i’m at Concordia it’s like all these students are passing through, getting a snack or printing off whatever. They’ll stop and chat but it’s obviously like I cant focus my whole attention on making a pair of earrings in one sitting, where I would do it here [in my bedroom]. I also find it kind of distracting cuz like, I don’t know, it’s not like these people are bad or anything it’s just like all these different energies are passing and I feel it affects my concentration and my ability to complete something when I’m amongst other people. I have to be alone to complete the project I guess.
So do you have different routines for different spaces? Or is it pretty much the same?
I guess pretty much the same. Cuz when I was in the mukluk workshop a lot of the people there were already beaders, so that’s different because everyone’s so focussed on making their own thing. There’s some chatting but for the most part everyone’s silent and, you know, focussed on their own project, but when I’m teaching workshops it’s like everyone’s always talking. Like, theres focus but not as much focus—like trying to learn but full attention isn’t on learning? If that makes sense.
Why do you think that is?
I think for people to pick up beading for the first time is really intimidating and I think people think that they’re capable of making something really clean, and neat, and tight-looking on the first try when thats not the case. It is a solitary thing so I think when you’re in a workshop doing something you’re already familiar with it’s just easier. You’re more comfortable to just dive right in I guess, whereas if you’re coming as a first time learner, and I’m teaching too, like it’s new to me as well.
So this might sound kind of like a silly obvious question but, just to articulate it once and for all, what is produced in your beading space?
Earrings, chokers, and bracelets mostly. Recently made that little pouch with beadwork on it and I wanna make more of those, but yeah, mostly jewellery. It’s also that time of the year for people wanting gifts and stuff, so its a lot faster for me to turn out jewellery than these little pouches.
And you sell those for income, that’s your primary income?
So your beading space is where you accomplish your living, basically.
Yeah…which bothers me sometimes because I would want a studio space, but when I had the studio space I hardly made the effort to go. Every time I was there I would feel more pressure, because it would take me so long to get there that I would be like, ‘I have to stay for like at least four hours’, and if I didn’t then I would feel like I wasn’t like utilizing it, like I was wasting my money. I’m more productive at home cuz I just roll out of bed and do it, and take naps and stuff in between.
So would you consider your current beading space adequate?
You don’t have any functional issues?
Maybe I’d want more shelving or something just cuz I have a lot of knick knacks. But yeah it’s pretty functional, there’s like access to most things so [I] just need to organize it a bit better. But yeah. Shelves, yes.
If you could make any changes, what would they be? Maybe in addition to the shelves?
Probably not have it in my bedroom. Like, if I had enough money I would just pay for the middle room [of this apartment] and have my studio in there, and have this as my bedroom. That’s pretty much it. I still like working from home, so I guess the ideal situation would be to have a studio in my apartment.
Do you think that is achievable, realistically, either now or sometime in the near future?
Yes. Cause I gotta be positive about making that money!
The only thing that would really hold me back is that I wanna travel, so when I think about paying (if i’m lucky) like $200 a month for a studio space—maybe sharing it with someone else or whatever—that’s $200 I could save towards travelling which I feel right now is more important cuz like I’m still being productive when I’m in my room. I think that’s the only thing thats really holding me back.
But then again I’m like, if I did have a studio space, since this is my job, my full-time job, it would just kind of pay for itself anyway, cuz I’d be making so many things and maybe I could have studio visits so people could come and buy things, like once a month or something.
Having a separate space brings new possibilities?
Yeah cuz I don’t really feel comfortable with people coming over to buy things unless I know them as a friend, you know. I’d rather just meet someone at a random cafe, but then that feels weird too, like using another space to like sell things. It’s not like I’m setting up shop so to speak but like…
It’s just a hand off?
The space where you sell things is primarily online, right?
Yeah and at shows, like local markets and stuff. But yeah mostly online, and I think Concordia’s [weekly] farmers market’s been helping because thats more steady.
So your retail space is always shifting?
We should also talk about how you’re self taught, and so in that way your lab space is also where you learn new skills—would you say that? Still?
Yeah…yeah. Yeah, [laughs] I would say that. Because I feel like when I’m inspired to do something I have to do it right then and there, I don’t have time to waste in between. When I had that studio, if I was taking the subway it would take me like half an hour to get there. If I was biking it’d be like, fifteen minutes, or twenty, but it’s all uphill so its still annoying. Whereas here I’m like, “Oh, I feel creative. I’ll just like sit down and do that now.” Cuz it’s like by the time I hit the studio, I don’t feel that urge as much.
Mmhm. And the idea is gone.