Aboriginal designs by Innisfail woman

When Dawn McIntyre’s father-in-law’s dream catcher went missing, she offered to craft a replacement.

Dawn McIntyre tightens the strings on a native choker in her home in Innisfail where she makes and sells aboriginal jewelry

Dawn McIntyre tightens the strings on a native choker in her home in Innisfail where she makes and sells aboriginal jewelry

When Dawn McIntyre’s father-in-law’s dream catcher went missing, she offered to craft a replacement.

Requests from other people for similar pieces followed, and Dawn suddenly found herself on the path to a business.

Today, the Innisfail woman makes and sells a broad range of jewelry, decorative dress and other aboriginal products through Creations by Dawn. With a couple of high-profile customers helping promote her handiwork, the future looks promising.

In addition to products like dream catchers, necklaces and bracelets, Dawn makes and sells more elaborate items like breastplates and chokers. She uses authentic materials — leather, feathers, shells, porcupine hair and quills, and the like — sourcing much of what she needs from taxidermists.

Her husband Kevin, who looks after marketing, said about a quarter of Creations by Dawn’s customers are aboriginal. Many buyers discover the business through its website at www.creationsbydawn.ca, but word-of-mouth referrals have been huge, he said.

One celebrity sporting a choker fashioned by Dawn’s is Adam J. Gonzalez, an aboriginal fashion stylist.

“Now other people are ordering it because he’s wearing it,” said Kevin, adding that Gonzalez has even become a friend.

Dawn also crafted a breastplate and matching choker for aboriginal actor and model Rick Mora. He wore these items during production of a feature film titled Big Money Rustlas.

Filmed earlier this year, Big Money Rustlas will include Dawn’s name in its credits, said Kevin.

A singer and song-writer who enjoys painting, Dawn has always had an artistic bent. But it wasn’t until the dream catcher exercise a few years ago that she began dabbling in jewelry and other crafts.

Dawn began studying native art in earnest, and started producing her own pieces last fall. She’s been helped by aboriginal friends, and now works directly with an elder from Samson Cree Nation.

“He was so amazed with her work, for her not being a full-blooded native, he offered his services,” said Kevin. “He’s been a really good friend and has really helped us.”

Kevin, who operates a mortgage brokerage business, estimates that 40 per cent of his time is now spent on Creations by Dawn.

The couple’s three sons — ages 12, 5 and 4 — also help out at the home-based studio.

Kevin has been presenting Dawn’s work to casinos and resort gift shops in hopes of establishing a retail network.

“We’re getting very, very good feedback there, where they’re wanting to take her work and sell it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dawn is preparing to launch a line of non-aboriginal women’s jewelry.

“We’re working on designs right now,” said Kevin.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com