Artist’s Corner: Free-Style Beader

When Dolly Martel opened the door she had tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she laughed. “I just got home from a psychic reading and I’m very emotional.” Dolly’s niece is Brittany Martel, the Hay River woman who was reported missing in June. Her body was found in late July near Merritt, B.C. Dolly was very involved in planning the funeral, raising funds to cover the costs and acting as the media spokesperson for the grieving family. She visited the psychic in search of rest and closure. “Yes” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. “I have my answers. It’s a good day.”

Martel grew up on the K’atl’Odeeche First Nation Reserve, as part of a strong, close family. She is the daughter of Ruby Martel, and her father Pat Martel was the reserve’s eighth chief. She now lives in Yellowknife with her partner Michael Fatt, also an artist, and their little dog Smudge.

Dolly picked up sewing skills from watching her grandmother and aunties when she was young. She was greatly inspired by the beadwork of her older sister Ruth, especially the way she blended colours. While most beaders plan their designs and make drawings first, Dolly prefers to work instinctually. “Beading is very natural to me,” she said. “If a design is not going well, I just give myself some space, take some time to breathe, and then things work out.”

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Dolly has a wide-ranging portfolio and occasionally takes commissions. She’s made traditional moccasins, fashion-forward chokers and necklaces, dream catchers, purses, even blingy beaded baseball caps. She has many clients, of all ages, from such far-flung places as Holland and Texas. Recently she was awarded her first grant to purchase moosehide. Success though, has not gone to her head. Rather, she uses her creative gifts as a way help communities in need, donating both work and profits.  “I’ve had my share of addictions and I’ve hurt a lot of people. But I’ve made amends. Many people helped me out along the way, so I feel like I want to give back.” Dolly is shy, but is very open about her life story and her time in treatment. When she speaks, her courage and sense of self are palpable. She’s been sober for four years. “I’m here for a reason. God is with me 24-7. If he put me on this earth to sew, that’s what I’m going to do!”

You can view Dolly’s work by joining her Facebook page, Dolly’s Dene Designs.

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