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Crafting cultural legacy: Samson Cree Nation artist creates heirloom Indigenous bead work

The artistry of Kimberly Crane
Heirloom bead work by Samson Cree Nation artist Kimberly Crane. (Local Journalism Initiave photo)

By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News

Nestled in the heart of Samson Cree Nation, amid a community steeped in a history of prosperity and Indigenous pride, resides the visionary artisan, Kimberly Crane.

Crane creates one-of-a-kind Indigenous bead work heirlooms, that she hopes will be passed from parent to child, parent to grandparent, through her company called Pipkwan Made.

Most important, Crane hopes that her handmade custom-piece heirlooms conjure memories of the special people who passed them along to us.

“Pipkwan is my company name, and it’s a shortened version of my Cree name,” explained Crane. “I chose not to use the full Cree name as I want to preserve its sacred aspects; you could say I’m safeguarding my power.”

Crane is part of a unique generation in North American Indigenous history.

Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, formerly known as Hobbema, was celebrated as one of North America’s most prosperous communities, and has since navigated its share of challenges, akin to any thriving society.

Throughout the ebbs and flows of history, Maskwacis has endured, by adapting and persevering.

This unique upbringing empowers Crane to grasp her role and significance as an Indigenous artist. It also empowers her to create unparalleled Indigenous heirlooms that resonate with cultural significance, designed to be cherished and passed down through the generations.

“I’m drawn to nature themes and traditional bead work styles,” she noted. “Organic materials like smoked hide, antique beads, trade beads, and shell quills resonate with me. I enjoy the process of blending these elements into a modern, distinctive form, forging a path that bridges tradition and innovation.

“I also get inspired by brutalism architecture.”

Brutalist architecture is an architectural style that emerged during the 1950s in the United Kingdom. Brutalist buildings are characterized by minimalist constructions that showcase the bare building materials and structural elements over decorative design.

“I started developing a strong interest in bead and art about a decade ago, though I took a few years off to focus on other aspects of my life,” said Crane.

“I aspire to contribute to a movement that propels Indigenous art to new heights. Our stories, traditions, and the creativity that exists in Indian country deserve to be recognized for its beauty,” she affirmed.

Crane’s mission stands evident: “I believe every Indigenous individual deserves something beautiful to pass on to the next generation.”

Her creations serve as vessels of cultural continuity, ensuring the perpetuation of Indigenous traditions in the contemporary world.

As the interview concludes, Crane reflects, “I was often seen as the weird art kid, but that’s just my way of expressing myself.”

By embracing the label of “unconventional, weird, or creative,” individuals actively contribute to the evolution of culture, art, and society,” Crane encourages youth to think outside of the box and become their own architectures of their own lives. It’s the creative kids that make the world a better place.

Crane’s journey serves as an inspiration for fellow creatives to shatter barriers and embrace innovative thinking. The willingness to entertain diverse perspectives and approaches is what propels humanity forward.

For Crane, her contribution is creating one-of-a-kind heirlooms that can be passed down for generations.

For more information or to purchase Kimberly Crane’s indigenous family heirlooms email