Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Destiny Seymour is an Anishinaabe textile and interior designer. She is the owner of Winnipeg-based home décor company, Indigo Arrows, which creates handcrafted linens, pillows, blankets and more. Her minimalist patterns and motifs celebrate Manitoban Indigenous peoples, culture and identity. In 2018, Seymour formed Woven Collaborative, an Indigenous led design studio with fellow designer Mamie Griffith.
What inspires your textiles and design practice?
I worked in a local architecture firm as an interior designer for 10 years and was frustrated by the lack of textiles that reflected the history and culture of Indigenous peoples from Manitoba. I wanted to bring Indigenous identity into the public spaces I was designing. It was during one of my visits to the Manitoba Museum when I was inspired by the ancient pottery and bone tools held in storage. Many of the pottery shards being catalogued came from land around my community. It was part of my ancestors legacy. I wanted to revive these patterns and learn how to create my own textiles that I could incorporate into my architecture projects. Manitoba has a rich ceramics history spanning thousands of years – I wanted to celebrate that. Anthropology was one of my majors for my undergrad degree, so it felt like I was coming full circle to another passion of mine.
Could you walk us through your creative process, from coming up with patterns and colours, to incorporating them into interior spaces?
My current designs are inspired by a mix of Indigenous pottery shards and bone tools, flint rocks, and Anishinaabe teachings. All of my patterns begin with sketches. I always remember the advice from a close friend, who is also a designer, to just "jump in and make a mess." We can get so caught up with wanting our creations to be perfect from the start that we end up not beginning at all. This is when I get into the studio and refine my patterns through print-making.
I'm very grateful to also have my father to help me hold ceremony for these patterns. I give him tobacco and ask him to help me name each pattern in Anishinaabemowin, his first language. He didn't attend residential school because his mother hid him when the priests in our community came to collect the children and leave for the school year. It's hard to imagine that this was the reality for my parents and grandparents now that I am a mother of two young daughters. My father was raised in a traditional and spiritual home and is now sharing that knowledge with us.
Can you explain how naming your textiles in Anishinaabemowin has also become a teaching tool?
Working with my father these past five years, as he names patterns and shares teachings behind the words, I'm learning so much about my own culture. Our teachings are intertwined in our language. There are so many English words that don't exist in our language because we didn't use them. Pairing language with my textiles is an important part of reviving culture within my work. I love when returning customers ask about certain patterns using the Anishinaabemowin names. I also love that it makes my dad smile when he hears that too.
Tell us about a favourite piece you’ve designed and why it’s so memorable.
During the pandemic, I collaborated with a local Winnipeg manufacturing company called Freed & Freed to design a mask with them. We designed a mask using my Ishkoday (meaning fire in Anishinaabemowin) pattern. This is the first pattern in my Elements series. Marissa Freed, the president of Freed, supported my decision to give all proceeds from each mask sold to a local non-profit called the Butterfly Club with Kani Kanichik. The Butterfly Club is an Indigenous-led after school program for young girls and Two-Spirited youth aged 9-13 years old. We were able to raise over $40,000 and give iPads to each youth so that they could participate in the program during lockdown. I love that so much. It really inspires me to find more ways to give back.
Have you encountered anything particularly surprising or unexpected over your career so far?
Marissa Freed and I wanted to continue working together after the successful mask campaign. She reached out to Urban Barn and pitched the idea of bringing Indigenous textiles to their stores. We launched that collection this past Spring. My family was so proud to see these designs represented across Canada. Marissa is fearless. I really admire her.
From your perspective, what does modern Indigenous design and the representation of Indigenous culture within built environments, mean to you?
As a design student, I didn't see textiles or furniture designed by an Indigenous designer. I didn't see any Indigenous designers or their work in magazines. It was challenging to get through school and to begin working full-time when these images didn't exist. As a mother, it means that my daughters can see themselves in our home, in magazines, and in public spaces. They are proud of their culture, language, and community. I want them to be confident and fearless.