Authentic Indigenous decorative art gallery flourishes
Artist and owner of Moonstone Creation speaks about success
Yvonne Jobin and her daughter Amy Willier opened Moonstone Creation back in 2009, at a time when Willier just had her son.
“It was meant to be,” said Jobin as the store became the solution to Willier’s concern of leaving her baby boy while she worked. Her son “has been raised in the store from the time he was 7 months old,” according to the gallery’s website.
“I actually had a home-based business in Calgary for 15 years prior to opening up a storefront,” said Jobin. It was the first step to building a clientele for the future art gallery owner.
“It’s been my passion to help to preserve and teach the native culture through all that I do — the classes I teach, the workshops and the things that I create,” she said. “Im very much conscientious about the environment and everything that we use that comes from the ‘four leggeds’ as we call them and so I honour our work to our traditional ways and we don’t take anything for granted.”
“There’s a saying that we are no more important than the grass that we walk on. So we do things in a respectful and humble way.”
“It was tough the first while,” Jobin admitted, “because we did it without any kind of funding,” as she recalled having to take some money out of her mortgage, although not much, to start off the store.
Jobin also began asking friends if they had furniture they did not want as she prepared the store before it opened to the public.
From the beginning
Jobin’s interest in art began years ago when she was a student at the Alberta Vocational Centre in Grouard, Alta.
“Unfortunately, through colonization there was little value placed on the skills of my ancestors and things were literally stolen from [them] and now they’re collectors items,” said Jobin. “And so there’s always been this little bit of yearning within me to make it right.”
Art became so natural to Jobin, although she had never done similar work before, that by the end of the 10-month program she was offered a teaching position at the centre.
Fast-forward years later: Her very own store showcases various and unique forms of art like moose hair tufting, fish scale art, porcupine quill work, beadwork and moccasin making — all of which are done in-store by Jobin and her family.
“I have trained Kim [Brothers], my niece, who works with us in the tufting [while] Amy does the fish-scale art,” Jobin explained. “I do the porcupine quill work and we all bead.”
Beading is one thing customers may know Moonstone Creation for. Another may be because the store might bring nostalgia to many of them.
People come in and say “Oh it smells like home” or “Oh my dad used to work up north and he used to bring us moccasins,” says Jobin, reassured of the work she has done.
“I really think that general society thought we were a dying breed and that we were no longer going to be around,” she said. “People think that they can paint the picture of an old Indian with wrinkled face and that’s native art but it isn’t.”
Jobin also spoke of having to deal with companies that source their products overseas but regardless of that Moonstone Creation is “about being local and accepted,” representing over 50 other Aboriginal artists in their store.
“We try so hard to be 100 per cent Canadian-made,” she said. “I mean we could fill up our store with all those things that some other people carry but that’s not who we are.”
“We are people of the land,” Jobin explained. “We are the original people of this land and why shouldn’t we be doing what we are good at?”
To top that off, the store also offers classes in the decorative arts as Brothers, Willier and Jobin teach art enthusiasts how to do traditional beadwork, moose and caribou hair tufting, fish scale art and moccasin making.
Share the culture
But that’s not all. The cherry on top comes with Jobin’s 20-year experience as a marriage commissioner.
“Once in a while, just for convenience sakes, we do have wedding ceremonies here in the back room,” the art enthusiast shared. “We are just happy to share the culture.”
“One of the interesting things that I hear from people are sometimes that they’ve lived in Canada or Calgary all their lives and they never had that opportunity to talk to native people to get to learn from them, and so you know we are really doing a great job at building bridges and it’s time.”