Vashti Etzel is a Shuhta/Kaska Dene woman and a member of the Wolf Clan. Born in Fort Smith, NWT, Vashti spent her childhood in Ross River, Yukon. Raised in part by her grandparents, Vashti grew up on the land and was immersed in stories passed down by her family. At sixteen, she dreamed of becoming a well-known artist, but she also had an interest in earth science. After graduating from high school, Vashti attended Mount Royal University with the intention of starting a business that would create on-the-land jobs for her people. The birth of her first child renewed her passion for art and inspired her to continue her late grandmother’s legacy in traditional crafts.
A self-taught artist, Vashti draws creative inspiration from her grandmother and her Dene roots and is motivated by a desire to preserve her Indigenous heritage and culture. In 2016, Vashti shared a beaded poppy she’d made on social media and it got picked up by CBC. The orders for poppies and custom moccasins that followed led to the creation of Golden Eye Designs. Vashti also makes jewellery that features materials from the land. One of Vashti’s pieces, a pair of exquisitely beaded gauntlets, is part of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection. She was also commissioned to design and produce a custom sash for the Chancellor of Yukon University.
This video is from our EntrepreNorth Walk in Beauty video series, which captures the stories of the entrepreneurs in our Circumpolar Fashion Cohort. Click here to see more videos from the series.
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This video was made by Brian Ladue of Northern Wild Productions