artist interview

artist interview

In conjunction with her CCBC gallery show, we asked artist Serena Steel to share with us a bit
about herself, her inspiration, her audience and her other projects. 

Exhibition will be on view in our gallery from august 8 – september 26, 2024. 


My name is Serena Steel and I am a Secwepemc artist and curator who was born and raised in my home community of Simpcw First Nation.

While I was growing up I spent a lot of time watching my mother create. She has always been a jack-of-all-trades and would teach me anything that I wanted to learn. It is because of her teachings that I have grown to develop a deep love of craft.

I moved to Vancouver in 2018 to pursue an education in the fine arts. Throughout my time at university I learned a lot about the art world, but often found myself drawn back to the community that I had found within craft. It wasn’t until my final year at school that I decided to introduce beadwork into my art practice. This shift felt more true to the values of community, care, and storytelling, that I wanted to portray in my work. This intersection between art and craft is where I find myself today, influenced by both worlds.

In 2022 I graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, including a major in Critical and Cultural Practice, and a minor in Social Practice and Community Engagement. During this same year I also had my work included in the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art’s Beaded Nostalgia exhibition.

Currently, my art practice is interdisciplinary with a focus on beadwork, sculpture, and Indigenous material practice. My work has become an important way for me to engage in my culture and remain connected to my community despite living away from home.

“My work is deeply rooted in the stories that frame my identity in relation
to the land and the people that I come from.


I have spent most of my adult life exploring what it means to belong, and the responsibility and joy that comes with it. My work is deeply rooted in the stories that frame my identity in relation to the land and the people that I come from. Each piece of work that I make begins with a shared experience, and I aim to honour these everyday moments of connection.

I am deeply inspired by the materials that I work with. Beadwork in particular holds my attention closely, and I am captivated by the slow precision it requires. It is not something that can be rushed, and it has taught me how to create with intention and care. I am infatuated with the different colours and finishes that beads can have, and I find joy in exploring the ways that these elements interact with one another. If I don’t have a particular story or image in mind when starting a new project, I will often begin by picking out my colours and letting those choices influence the direction of my piece.

This slow and careful work is mirrored in the natural materials that I use as well. From harvesting the birch bark and pine needles, to stitching them into a basket, this process is one that ties me back to the land in a very physical and tangible way. I really enjoy allowing the materials to inform my work as I find new ways to utilize them.

audience response

The response to my work is often one of curiosity. People are always keen to learn more about the materials that I use and to understand more about what the process of making looks like. I often get asked about how long each project takes me to complete, and I think that reflects upon people’s interest in the detail of the work. This is especially true for my beadwork pieces since people can see each individual bead that had to be strung and sewn in order for the piece to be completed. Because of how long I’ve worked on developing these skills, it is always special to teach beading workshops and let people experience first hand the labour that goes into a final product.

Since so much of my work is centered around my family and my home, I think it gives the audience more of a personal understanding of who I am and what I value. My hope is that my artwork will build relationships with the viewers who can relate their own stories back to it.


I am the assistant curator at The Polygon Gallery which means that when I am not developing my own art practice I get the pleasure of supporting other emerging artists as they develop their own. I run an annual film program called Response that gives emerging artists the opportunity to connect with Indigenous filmmakers and mentors as they develop their own short film.

Recently I have received a YVR Emerging Artist Scholarship. For this project I am learning about Indigenous plants and medicines with a mentor from my community. We have been spending time together out on the land and it has been a wonderful reason to spend more time in my home territory. I have always been interested in learning more about harvesting and medicine-making, so this project is giving me the time and space to dedicate towards my learning journey.

In my personal life I spend much of my time with friends and family. We often spend our days crafting together, trying out new mediums and revisiting old ones. This has become an important way for us to be together, and it is a great exercise in finding the joy in making.