wolfwmnbeads is a local Indigenous-owned beading business run on Instagram by Raechel Bonomo.
Before National Indigenous History Month comes to a close, our team will continue to provide informative and interesting articles highlighting the Indigenous history, and showcasing Indigenous talent. Today I wanted to take a moment to highlight one of my personal favourite local Indigenous-owned businesses and artists – Raechel Bonomo, owner of wolfwmnbeads. I began following Raechel’s Instagram account when I first started The Sustainable Switch, seeing her beautiful pieces and finding a kindred spirit. Both Raechel and I have chosen to found and run our businesses with certain values and ideals at the forefront, including our mutual love for the land and its inhabitants. As such, I wanted to take the time to share with you her beautiful art and some information about the woman who creates it.
Who is Raechel Bonomo?
Raechel is a mixed Kanien’kehá:ka woman currently residing in Tkaronto, Ontario. Her mother’s family is from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, and her father’s family is from Northern Italy and immigrated to Toronto in the early 1960s. Her traditional name is Mein-gun Kwe, meaning wolf woman, which was bestowed to her by an Ojibway Elder. This is where the business’ name originates. Having grown up in Oshawa, Ontario, about 45 minutes east of Toronto, Raechel connects to her Haudenosaunee culture through her beadwork and spending time on the land. She is passionate about helping Indigenous youth connect to their culture through land-based teachings, nature conservation, beadwork, and food.
Figures 1, 2, 3 & 4 – wolfwmnbeads work
Raechel started her business in October 2020, never imagining she would be selling her beadwork, especially as she hadn’t been beading for very long at that point. Her beading journey actually began as a New Year’s resolution in January 2020. However, always having been a creative person, before she started beading, Raechel studied art and spent time buying and selling upcycled vintage clothing and jewelry. Fashion and sustainability have always been important to her, so she felt like beadwork was just a natural extension of that.
Raechel was kind enough to carry out a Q&A session with me, answering a number of questions about her business, its processes, and how she incorporates her values and culture into her pieces. Read below to find out more!
Q & A With Raechel Bonomo (wolfwmnbeads)
Q: How and when did you learn how to do beadwork and make jewelry?
A: I coincidentally started my beading journey just before a time where everyone started new hobbies: during the pandemic. I am largely self-taught, but have learned so much from my kin. Whether it is how to use materials in a way that honours the animal (like tufting with good intentions, or using quills while thinking of and thanking the porcupine they’re from), experimenting with edging, trying different colour ways or stepping out of my comfort zone, my growth can be attributed to all the powerful, talented Indigenous artists I’m lucky to know.
Q: What kinds of materials do you use in your work? Where do you source them?
A: I largely use upcycled, vintage and harvest components in my work. It’s important to me that my work has minimal impact on the environment, so I try to avoid buying brand new materials made from non-recycled materials like plastic. Most, if not all, of the “extras” in my work have been thrifted or saved from other pieces (such as tassels, charms, etc.). Antler is a prominent material throughout my work, as is caribou fur, leather and porcupine quills. These gifts from the land are instrumental in how my work comes together. Not only do they last long, they hopefully help the wearer feel more connected to the natural world and all she provides for us (see figure 5).
Note: This earring set was made with smoked hide, upcycled vintage centres, dyed caribou fur, backed with deer hide, & finished with a gold chain & 22k gold fish hooks.