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Government of New Brunswick

Mel Beaulieu

Mel beaulieu
Mel Beaulieu, photo : Sam Evans (@screwsocietysam)

Mel Beaulieu (they/them) is a proud member of Metepenagiag First Nation, living and creating in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

In their work, Mel blends traditional craftsmanship with ever developing technology - crafting intricate beadwork and bringing it into the immersive landscapes of augmented reality. The result is work that serves as a testament to the fluidity of gender and identity, the resilience of tradition, and the endless possibilities that arise when innovation and culture converge.

Mel's creativity serves as a celebration of connection—connection to the natural world, the profound ties of family, and the links we are between past and future.

To keep up with Mel's work, you can find them on Instagram @the.beads.knees or

What led you to become an artist?

My grandmother led me to become an artist. She was an artist herself. She had her oil paints set up in the hall outside my room when I was small, and I loved watching her work and fell asleep in my bed with the smell of turpentine and the sounds of her working and humming. She encouraged me to make art and gave me honest feedback on my work and how to improve. She taught me so much.

Matriarchs 2020

Matriarchs, 2020. Beads on Felt with Moosehide, 8x10

A portrait of my grandmother (Loraine Gourley) and her mother (Mary Peter-Paul) beaded one bead at a time from a photo of them out fishing together when my grandmother was young.

How did your training and experience help you to create and innovate in your artistic practice?

I don’t have any formal training, just learning from others around me and through experimentation. In beadwork, I am self-taught, mainly through trial and error. I was taught and guided in Augmented Reality by Joshua Conrad (@slowstudies_creative). Josh showed me how much Indigenous and queer voices are lacking in digital spaces and opened that door for me. From Augmented Reality I jumped into 3D Modeling and printing with the help of funding from Arts NB’s Equinox Program. Branching out into digital spaces in this way removed the limitations I put on my work, it taught me that I can go learn whatever I need to bring my vision forward.

What stimulates you most about your practice?

The fusing of traditional techniques with tech really excites me and I love the fact that there is always more to learn. I’m excited by trying new mediums and techniques. Lately I’ve been experimenting with making my own beads in different shapes and sizes – whether in digital spaces through AR, and 3D printing or in more organic way in clay, wood, or stones I find on the ground.


Netugulimk, 2023.

Augmented Reality Experience. Netugulimk is a Mi’kmaq teaching about sustainability. It reminds us of our shared responsibility to maintain balance in our relationship with the land, never taking more than we need, while providing the protection the earth needs to thrive.

Experience it yourself here:

What drew you to bead works?

I love the slowness of beadwork. It has a real calm; meditative energy and I need that in my life. I’m generally high strung, so it balances me. When I was working to become sober 7 years ago, someone recommended I try beading to get me through those first months, and it’s still something I rely on to carry me through tough things.

What motivates your creativity?

I think inspiration comes from being surrounded by changemakers and people who aren’t afraid to try something new. There is nothing that I love more than listening to another artist talk about their work or their dreams and seeing how they light up. I always feel excited to work after residencies, conferences, or casual meetings with artist friends – especially if the work they do is in a completely different medium then mine. Those sessions of bouncing ideas off each other without worrying about if they’re even feasible really fuel my work.

How does your creative process unfold as you create an artwork?

My process starts with sketches on napkins and scraps of paper, then into smoother drawings on my iPad that I use as reference while I bead or create AR experiences. My workflow tends to be all or nothing – I work in spurts of long hours and then rest when what I’m working on is finished. I get excited about my work and find it hard to stop until a project is done. I find working on my larger scale projects more challenging in that way. It’s hard to keep that motivation and interest when the results are slower to show up.


Pjilata’kw, 2024.

Augmented Reality Experience. These beaded jingle cones, made of colour and light represent Indigenous gender diversity, and the inherent belonging of Two Spirit kin within our communities and our gatherings. Two Spirits, and the medicines and light they carry, belong in the powwow circle. Pjilata’kw - you are welcome.

Experience it yourself here:

What is your artistic approach and/or philosophy to creating art?

My approach in my practice is that, before anything, my art is for myself. I think it’s easy to fall into trying to create what people want or expect you to create, and it becomes really limiting. I try to remind myself that beading is medicine first. I create to heal myself, and my community. I create to put my big feelings into the world, and to share a piece of myself, without always worrying if people will necessarily like it.

Why do you think it's important to make art and pursue an artistic career?

It really comes down to fulfillment and joy for me. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It gives me the freedom to be completely myself. I can say what I want in my work, and I don’t have to hide pieces of my identity or experience to be more palatable or acceptable like I have had to in conventional jobs in the past. I don’t have to compromise on who I am to make a living and that’s vitally important to me.


Bound, 2024.

Beads on Felt with Moosehide, glass, candle wax. A beaded stained-glass window, with hands bound by a rosary. The hands are pierced by stigmata and blood falls. The beadwork is incased in shattered glass, with candle wax splattered - of my experience with OCD and religious trauma.

What have you learned about yourself and the artistic community through your work?

I think the biggest thing to learn from the Indigenous beadwork community is that we’re not in competition with each other. We’re happy to help each other, to share each other’s work, and pass opportunities to each other. We trade materials, beadwork, and knowledge. Cultural practices thrive when we share what we know and have with each other, and that concept is really present in the Indigenous beadwork community.

Describe what you are most proud of in your career.

I’m most proud of my work when I am teaching someone else. It’s important to keep Indigenous cultural practices alive, and that happens when we share our knowledge with the next generation. My art came from people around me supporting my learning and encouraging me to create and it feels fulfilling when I can do that for someone else.

What advice would you give to young and emerging artists?

Don’t be afraid to share your art. When I was a teen, I used to make anonymous zines on my dad’s scanner. They were full of weird poetry and art, and I would hide them under rocks around my little village (Stanley NB). I used a pen name because I always felt my art had to be a secret. I was young and self-conscious, I lived in a tiny closed-off town, and what I had to say wasn’t what the culture in my town was accepting of. I still found a way to share art safely (even if I’m unsure if anyone ever found them), and sharing felt like I was carving out a space for my closeted queer self to exist. It let me create without worrying what people would say or think. It really developed my voice. Whether you attach your name or not, let your work see the light. Theres something freeing about that.

Tools of the Maker 2023

Tools of the Maker, in progress.

Beads on Felt. 1.5x1.5 A beaded image of a desk with my tools spread out with the sun casting shadows across the worker’s surface.

Where can we follow and see your works:

Love NB arts and culture? Share your favourites. #inspiredbyNB