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Learning crafts from his mother

Thursday December 20, 2012
Wikwemikong’s Paul Francis has been creating traditional crafts since his mother began teaching him at the age of 12.

Wikwemikong’s Paul Francis has been creating traditional crafts since his mother began teaching him at the age of 12.

“I’m following my mother,” Francis said. “I do the powwow circuit all summer. It keeps me busy.”

Francis usually works four to five hours per day in his shop to produce his traditional crafts, which he also offers for sale on a wholesale basis.

His biggest sellers during a recent five-day gift show in Thunder Bay were a variety of dreamcatcher earrings made out of fine wire with a bead in the centre and sweetgrass braids.

“I start with a piece of wire about two-feet long,” Francis said about his dreamcatcher earrings. “I just start in a circle and keep going around webbing it with that piece of wire. (The bead) represents mother earth.”

Francis said sweetgrass is not readily available in the Thunder Bay area but it is plentiful on Manitoulin Island.

“I’ve sold about 60 braids since I’ve been here,” Francis said on Dec. 6.

Francis also creates a variety of crafts out of leather, sweetgrass, birchbark and beadwork, including cedar frames for artwork and hand drums.

“I make (the frames) out of cedar and I use leather ties to tie (the artwork) in,” Francis said. “I sold one big (hand drum) and two small (hand drums) at this show. It’s been a good show.”

Francis also sold a selection of rings he had bartered for at a powwow in southern Ontario.
“There’s still a bartering system with native people,” he said.

In addition to creating traditional crafts, Francis also provides traditional teachings for students in schools and young inmates in correctional facilities.

“I teach them the beading work and if they’re old enough, I like doing dreamcatchers with the older kids,” Francis said. “It teaches patience.”

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