Indigenous beader and knitter connects to her culture and creativity through her art

Connecting to culture in art

"Okanagan Inspired" is a weekly series of profiles offering a peek into the stories and inspirations of South Okanagan residents who hold creative roles in the community.

A paramedic with a passion for Indigenous beading as a creative and cultural outlet has made her way from Vancouver Island to call the Okanagan home.

Originally from Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, Cecelia Smith has made several moves across BC throughout her 19.5 year career as a paramedic with her husband, Dave.

“I was born and raised in Ucluelet, which is just south of Tofino. When I went to school, I moved to Nanaimo, on the other side of the Island,” says Smith.

With her husband, they have lived all over the province and now are settled in Oliver.

“We met living on the Island, and have lived all over the Interior and Northern BC. We’ve been in Oliver for about 5 years now, and I think it’s where we are going to stay!” Smith says.

Upon moving, the Smiths have built roots and connections in the Okanagan.

In addition to Smith's day to day work, she makes knitted goods and beaded accessories. “I hand knit toques, cowls, mittens and socks, and I make all kinds of beaded jewelry and keychains. I make all kinds of stuff,” says Smith.

Although Smith has been creating her beaded and knitted goods for several years, it’s only within the last year she has created her Okanagan-based Indigenous business, Sea Wolf and Sage Co., to share her goods on a larger scale.

“It kind of emerged, the business part, last spring. With all the lockdowns and isolation due to Covid, I was looking for ways to build connections, and I wanted to feel close to my home on the Island. Creating things helps me feel that connection,” explains Smith.

“I come from a long line of artists and creative people. My grandmother, Josephine, whom I never got to meet, was the midwife for the village, a gardener, a sewer who made all her kids clothes and a Cowichan knitter. She taught my mom how to do all kinds of creative things, and my mom taught me,” she adds.

“My mom taught me how to bead and I learned how to knit from a friend, with help online. Dave and I have motorcycles and we went to Lords of Gastown in Vancouver, and they had a beautiful Cowichan knit leather jacket. I wanted it so bad, but they made a limited amount and sold out so fast every year. I thought to myself, ‘I can do that,’” says Smith.

Although she hasn’t gotten around to knitting the jacket yet, Smith has mastered all kinds of complicated knitted goods, including patterned sweaters, so it's only a matter of time.

Knitting and beading isn’t only beneficial to her customers, but beneficial to Smith too.

“It gives me zen, and I need all the zen in my life,” says Smith, laughing.

“It’s so calming and it feels good to put good energy and love into something. It reminds me of my home as well. I name all of my hats after something that reminds me of home, like for example, my Kennedy toque is named after Kennedy Lake, just outside of Ucluelet. It watched me swim there when I was young, sit by a campfire, and now it welcomes me every time I travel home."

While finding her zen, Smith spends time with her rescue dog, Rupert, who she calls her Associate Knitter.

“We got Rupert from a high kill shelter in California. The dogs get two weeks to be adopted or they get euthanized. There is a rescue group called Our Last Hope Animal Rescue, who rescue as many dogs as they can. They got Rupert on the morning of the day he was scheduled to be put down. We had another dog named Skeena who had passed away, and when we got Rupert, we realized he was rescued the day she passed away. She was named after the Skeena River, so we named him Rupert after Prince Rupert, where the Skeena River leads to,” says Smith.

Smith is now building her experience selling her beaded and knitted goods in market places.

“We went home for vacation at the end of August and I participated in the Tofino Market. It was really cool and so nice to be home,” says Smith.

For people looking to learn, Smith advises, “try something that you love! Find something that you want to make and love and then you’ll make yourself go for it. If you want to learn anything enough, nothing will stop you. And also lots of Youtube,” she says, laughing.

Although Smith enjoys making all kinds of goods, she has some favourites.

“I love making my long fringe earrings, and I love knitting socks. You don’t know how good socks can feel until you have your own pair that I knit custom for your feet,” explains Smith.

While Smith and Rupert work away beading and knitting, you will find her commonly listening to Kite, by U2 which is not only her favourite song, but, “the song I want played at my funeral,” she says. “It’s in writing now, so make sure Dave does it,” she adds, laughing.

For people now looking to purchase some of Cecelia Smith’s beautiful creations, you can check out the selection and reach out to her on Instagram at @seawolfandsage.co or at the Summerland Wildflower Night Market, Oct. 2 from 5-8:30 p.m.

More Penticton News