Indigenous Fashion Week: Louise Solomon, Hand of Solomon

As Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO) goes completely virtual, we wanted to take the opportunity and introduce you to five extraordinary Indigenous designers. Each day we’ll feature someone new and ask the same set of questions, from what gives them joy to how important community is. Our series will showcase their stories, offer a glimpse into their signature pieces and hear their personal visions for the future. Today let's meet HAND OF SOLOMON. Join us and be inspired by Indigenous art and culture. IFWTO runs November 26 – 29 at 

Louise Solomon, Founder, HAND OF SOLOMON Runway Showtime: November 28 at 7 pm EST

Can you tell us the story behind Hand of Solomon? How did the company get started and what is your role?

Aanii [hello], my name is Louise Solomon. I’m an Ojibwe multimedia artist and fashion activist from Toronto, Canada. My Indigenous community is NEYAASHIINIGMIING - Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and my Ojibwe name is Minowensetchketkwe [she who brings out the good spirit].

Art and fashion have always been at the forefront of my expression. My love of art was nourished at an early age by my grandmother and I’m so grateful that my family encouraged my creativity. Growing up, my pursuit of cultural knowledge and art techniques influenced all facets of my life. A post-secondary degree from the University of Guelph that focused on sculpture and extended media, provided me with a strong foundation in art and helped hone my creative process. After graduating, I knew my career had to be in the arts but with so many routes to choose, I wasn’t quite sure which one was right for me.

This question about my art path was answered through a very clear and vivid dream about me being a jeweller and, specifically, that I needed to create a special ring that would be used in ceremony. Driven by my dream and passion for my Indigenous culture, I soon completed the Goldsmithing program at George Brown College, Toronto. Upon graduating, I founded “Hand of Solomon”, an Indigenous jewellery art company that focuses on high-end wearable art in the form of avant-garde attire and statement jewellery.

Can you point out a few signature pieces and tell us about them?

The rings that I create, which are my most important, most powerful and signature piece, are the ones that came to me in that dream. They are my Sweetgrass wedding bands, which are made from precious metals to look like a woven braid of sweetgrass. Sweetgrass is one of my culture’s sacred medicines; it cleanses, purifies, and represents the hair of Mother Earth. One lone strand of grass is delicate and can be easily broken, but when sweetgrass is braided from three bundles it becomes strong. To me, the three bundles represent the past, present and future. The strength from the braid represents the strong bonds of commitment, marriage and love. When I make wedding bands for a couple, I make the braid first and then cut it into two pieces and then forge each ring from that one braid. It’s so meaningful and romantic, which is why it’s my favourite design.

In all my art, I’m passionate about exploring and pushing the boundaries of what my interpretation of beauty is and what it means to be an Indigenous female raised in an urban environment. My pieces are grounded in nature but have a modern and futuristic feel to them. Making my art feels very sacred. I use clan markers [items that represent a person's clan and that are sacred to that person] in most of my pieces -- from hair, fur, porcupine quills, claws, feathers, teeth, shell, rawhide and bones. These materials guide me throughout the creative process and I feel very much connected to these animals and the teachings they give me.

How does community play a role in your vision for Hand of Solomon?

Each piece of wearable art that I create tells a story or carries a teaching from my Indigenous culture. Every detail is purposeful and nothing is added purely for decorative purposes. For instance, the Small Paws regalia [ceremonial attire] from my Dodem [CLAN] collection [which will debut at this year’s IFWTO tells a story of the Marten Clan. In my Ojibwe culture, the Marten Clan are the hunters, the Ogichidaa [big-hearted warrior].

The regalia is made from seed beads and porcupine quills. The top image is a circle made from woven porcupine quills that have been hand-dyed and represents the Manidoo [spirit]. Under it is an arc made from more woven porcupine quills with bolts pointing down, which represent the gifts and power given by the Manidoo above. The bolts point towards the large heart made from beads and has radiating porcupine quills surrounding the heart.

The teaching behind this image is that the Small Paws clans have been given the power of the Marten Manidoo [or small paw animals] to have empathy, kindness and understanding, all the while being a warrior and hunter for the community. To never take more than what is needed, to respect all life, to be fair and to have a big heart - these are the gifts of the small paws.

What are your goals for the company?

The messaging and stories in my art is at the heart of all I make. The goal of my work is to bring attention and enlightenment to crucial issues that affect Indigenous communities, namely the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, sovereignty, the beauty and empowerment of women, respect for Mother Earth and the life lessons and teachings of my culture. My work and art envision an enlightened future with cultural pride taking centre stage in all we do. I create wearable-art for the modern, spiritual warrior who wants to showcase their culture and beliefs in a modern and futuristic way, all the while respecting traditions and practices. I strive to push the boundaries of what is traditional Indigenous in terms of fashion, ceremonial wears, and self-expression.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your work?

Making my jewellery art brings me such joy and satisfaction because I know what I’m making is so personal and meaningful to someone else. When I’m making someone's engagement ring, or wedding bands I can feel the love from the person or couple and their intention from picking my work for their special and meaningful events. I only put good energy into my work and never create when I’m feeling down. I treat each piece as a sacred object and one that has a living spirit. I’m so grateful and honoured when someone chooses to wear my work or gift it to someone special. I feel truly blessed to do what I do!

Where can our readers see your designs and purchase your products?

My new Collection Dodem [CLAN] will be broadcast live through Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto 2020 on November 28 at 7:00 PM. My jewellery art can be found on my Hand of Solomon website.

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