Interior designer finds inspiration in ancient pottery and carvings

When Destiny Seymour and her partner were renovating their home two years ago, they wanted home decor that reflected their Indigenous identity.
Destiny Seymour, creator of Indigo Arrows says she was inspired by patterns on ancient clay pottery made by her ancestors in Manitoba. (Erica Daniels)
When Destiny Seymour and her partner were renovating their home two years ago, they wanted home decor that reflected their Indigenous identity.

"I was looking for local Indigenous design like Anishinaabe or Cree, Métis, Dakota," she said. "Something that reflected home and where we live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was a struggle. There was nothing."

Seymour, an Anishinaabe interior designer, mother and home renovator said there were plenty of West Coast inspired pieces to choose from, from shower curtains to coasters. She also found a lot of Navajo inspired decor but when it came to Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, or Dakota designs, she came up empty.

So Seymour filled in that space herself. She took a silkscreening class, to learn techniques on how to create patterns on fabric and created Indigo Arrows.

Inspiration in History

But where to find the inspiration for her new skill?

"I went to visit a good friend of mine, Kevin Brownlee at the [Manitoba] Museum. He runs the department of archeology and he was showing me all the amazing pottery they found on their archeology digs," she recalled.

"These are thousands of years old that were found here on the river banks. Just to think about our ancestors making these products and storing food and water and cooking in them."

When Brownlee showed her the storage room with shelves crowded with artifacts and pottery, that's when inspiration hit.

"I thought what a perfect way to start reviving these patterns and putting them in our home as an everyday thing. We are not artifacts. It's something that we could celebrate and then have more of an awareness of our cultural heritage," she said.

Seymour set to work, spending hours holding and sketching the pottery shards, pieces of history, turning them over and over like bone memory.

"The very first piece that I held was a 3000-year-old clay piece that had all these delicate stamps on the rim and all the stamps formed arrows and geometrical shapes," Seymour said, moving her hands and fingers as though she still held the pottery.
The word 'bezhig' which means one in anishinaabemowin is inspired by a 400 year old elk bone antler that had these carvings on it. (Erica Daniels)

"There was this one elk antler bone and someone turned it into a scraper tool. But on the bone they created all these circles and patterns and dots and indents and that one was 400 years old," she said. 

"So the first set of tea towels, I call the pattern bezhig, number one, that one reflects that bone tool and all those amazing patterns that someone here in Manitoba made 400 years ago."

Appreciation vs. Appropriation

As well as naming the collection in the Ojibway language of Anishinaabemowin, Seymour also includes a short write-up about where the patterns originate.
Seymour spent hours holding and sketching the pottery shards to create her one of a kind decor Indigo Arrows. (Erica Daniels)

"It's one thing to be inspired by the pattern, I think acknowledging where it came from, who made these patterns, so that it is also a teaching tool," she said.

"I think that a lot of the appropriation [that other brands have been criticized for] ... it's stealing because they claim it's their own pattern, that it came from them, when really it's a pattern that came from a family that's generations old."