Stick-to-it-ness proves a winner
Nativelovenotes uses humour to counteract sadness in world
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/03/2022 (375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns were lonely enough without being marooned in a new city — the situation sticker-maker extraordinaire Amy Jackson found herself in last year.
The 34-year-old from The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation had been in Winnipeg for about a year, pursuing a master’s degree in Native studies at the University of Manitoba. At the best of times, a year isn’t much time to build a whole new social circle, and the best of times, it was not.
Jackson could hardly have guessed she’d soon leave school as an entrepreneur with an international following and a bricks-and-mortar store in the works.
“I was still relatively new to the city, so I was alone for weeks at a time. It was really difficult, and I thought, ‘Man, if I’m depressed, I’m sure tons of people are.’”
Jackson started looking for something that would fill her time and take her mind off the pandemic doldrums. As one of those people with mosaics glued to their laptop lids, that meant making stickers.
“I started creating as an outlet, as a way to cope,” she said. “I thought then, it would be so fun to do some digital design work. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to tap into.”
Jackson opened up an app and started designing. The world already had its fair of depressing things in it, she said. She geared her designs to balance it out.
“I really wanted to counteract that with some humour — let’s remember our humanity and remember we can make jokes and have a good time together, you know?”
With that, Nativelovenotes was born.
A year later, the company’s merchandise includes not only stickers, but also stationery, buttons, jewelry, phone accessories, prints, clothing and home wares.
The goods are plastered with phrases such as “Ever sick,” “Live Laugh Skoden,” and “Go smudge yourself.” But other designs tackle more serious issues. They denounce racism, the Indian Act and the colonizer mindset. Or, like the sticker that says, “Intergenerational trauma ends with me,” they show a desire to make the world a better place.
One thing is clear about Jackson’s already abundant catalogue of designs: they have struck a chord.
“It blew up really quickly. I think within the first week, I had 1,500 followers on Instagram when I started sharing my work,” she said.
That number has since ballooned to more than 25,000, and Jackson said support has been pouring in from across the globe.
“We’ve sent to most European countries, to Indigenous folks who are living up there. We’ve had a lot of people in Australia, New Zealand, South America, and then of course, spread across North America and to Hawaii and the Polynesian islands,” Jackson said.
The ubiquity of interest in her products, which she describes as “unapologetically rezzy,” took Jackson by surprise.
“It makes me feel really excited. I also feel really fortunate that I’ve tapped into such an important — I don’t want to call it a market, because it’s more than a market — into a broader community that we didn’t know we could connect with each other in this way.”
Julianna McLean of Saskatoon (via James Smith Cree Nation), who bought three coffee mugs with the words “Colonizer tears” arched above a rainbow for herself and her kids, said Nativelovenotes provides a connection to home and proud reminders of who she and her children are as Indigenous people.
“Everything that she’s posting is so relatable to me. And the things for my kids say, ‘Here, don’t forget yourself. I’m sending you this little love note,’” she said. “It’s these little droplets, which is what Nativelovenotes offers. It’s like these little drops of who we are, and it makes space for that to exist.”
In Winnipeg, Jackson, four core staff and a few casual helpers are gearing up for their next big move.
On May 7, Nativelovenotes will open its storefront at 1116 Portage Ave. Jackson and company will share the building with another Indigenous-owned business, Turtle Woman Indigenous Wear, which sells Indigenous clothing and regalia, as well as supplies and other goods.
Turtle Woman owner April Tawipisim said she’s happy to see Indigenous creators such as Jackson thriving and excited to share the space.
“I’m looking forward to working with them, seeing all they’re offering, and maybe somewhere down the road we can work on a project together or something,” Tawipisim said.
Besides setting up the store, Jackson said in the long run, she’s aiming to take control of her printing by purchasing the printers and supplies to make her products in-house.
It’s an exciting time for the burgeoning entrepreneur, and to celebrate the year’s boom, she’s throwing a party April 29 at Club 200, complete with “rezzy activities” like jigging contests and leg wrestling. It’s a grand see-you-never to pandemic isolation.
“I love a good party,” she said with a laugh.
Despite the success, Jackson has no doubt she’ll return to university to finish her master’s, then a doctorate in history.
Her mom always told her she was the most determined person she ever met, Jackson said, so why not determine to do it all?