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Chippewa Cree fashion designer’s face mask art draws fans worldwide

Rebekah Jarvey for web.jpg
Posted at 9:25 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 16:30:19-04

Many of us are spending more time at home, and we might have picked up a new skill or gotten back to work on an old hobby.

In Rocky Boy, a self-described fashionista and clothing designer used her skills to put her own unique twist on a face mask and create socially-distant cultural connections in the process.

“Making masks, that was my therapy,” said Rebekah Jarvey, who works as a human resources generalist for the Chippewa Cree tribe. "Art definitely connects us as Indigenous people. That’s what brings us together, is our art, our beadwork, our sewing."

The 33-year-old has been creating art since she was a child. She estimates she learned to bead when she was between three and five years old.

When the pandemic started, she began to work from home and used her free time to sew cloth masks.

Then Jarvey’s 15-year-old son Royce inspired her to create a mask with even more meaning. “It was my son’s vision to do a mask that was half one color, and half another color,” she said. “So I just borrowed his idea.”

She came up with the “Night and Day” mask, spending about 30 hours creating the mask in between other projects.

“I made it during a time when the whole world was going through something,” Jarvey said. “Each piece had meaning."

It’s not a protective mask, but it reflects her life and experiences.

“I really wanted to create something that represents me,” she said. “Each material has a story of where it came from.”

The Louis Vuitton material is from thrifted purses, the horse hair is from a trade, and some of the beads are from friends overseas, according to Jarvey.

Her son even helped by beading one of the ropes.

When the mask was finished, Jarvey posted photos online in several Facebook groups. In one group with more than 200,000 members, titled “Social Distant Powwow,” the mask was incredibly popular, with thousands of likes, comments and shares.

“I never realized it would receive the response it did receive,” Jarvey said. “I got emails from Russia and Germany, New Zealand.”

Jarvey says she’s honored so many people appreciated her art, and she’s grateful to be able to share her gift with others during a time when many tribal events are canceled or rescheduled. It’s part of why she shares her work in social media groups like “Social Distant Powwow.” "Every weekend, they have specials, and they have singing as if you were at an actual powwow, but the only thing is it’s all online,” she said. "You can share online your dancing, your singing, your artwork."

It’s a sense of community, forged through creativity and the click of a mouse. “What quarantine has taught me is to look inward and find your talents and what you know how to do, and then share them with people.”

Jarvey coordinates a fashion show each September in Rocky Boy. This year, it will be virtual.

She is taking orders for her clothing and masks. You can reach her at rebekah.jarvey@gmail.com, or find her on Instagram @rebekah.jarvey.



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