In the lead up to winning Best Solopreneur at the Small Business BC Awards this year, Jaimie Davis couldn’t help feeling like an imposter.
“They talked about imposter syndrome on the first day of the awards week and I was like, ‘wow, I totally felt it this entire time up until the year that I’ve been self employed,’” she said.
“The competition, they looked like legit businesses then and I felt like an imposter, but no, I’m here, and, I’m running my business.”
Davis owns Jada Creations, an online store based in Terrace selling her handmade Indigenous art and jewelry to customers around the world. She said that the support from the community in Terrace and online has been overwhelming.
For Davis, her business is not just an enterprise to make money. It is an outlet to tell her story, embrace her culture and give her son a voice she didn’t have growing up.
Originally from Gitlaxt’aamiks, Davis moved to Terrace at the age of 10. As a Nisga’a and Gitxsan person, she experienced racism. In her adult life, her work as an artist has been a way to heal.
“Just within the last few years, it was just really coming to terms with my childhood and healing from those traumas that I didn’t really know I had, they were buried so deep that everything is just surfacing now, and I have my art to thank for that because art has just been so healing because it’s who I am as a person,” she said.
“I’m an artist. Art is the story of my ancestors, and it’s just reclaiming my culture, it’s reclaiming my identity.”
While she didn’t always consider art as a way to make a living — Davis has worked in the mining industry and at a bank before launching Jada Creations — she’s always been an artist at heart.
“As a child, I’ve always loved creating anything with everything, I was always busy working with my hands,” she said.
“When I was eight years old, I found a piece of rope, it was a pretty shiny piece of rope, and just out of curiosity I took it apart because I wanted to know how it was made. Little did I know that was a huge part of who I am because I use a lot of cedar rope in my jewelry design, so I’ve always loved art in all forms.”
Davis attended the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art at Coast Mountain College in 2016, a step in her life that she credits with opening doors and getting her to where she is now. She described learning under acclaimed artists like Dempsey Bob was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It was like a gravitational pull… I was pulled to the school, and I just applied to it on a whim and was accepted and quit my job and I went to school. And once once I got to the school, I knew I was in the right place. I knew I belonged there. I knew I had stepped on this path that was meant for me,” she said.
She started out as a cedar weaver, but through formal training Davis was able to expand her skillset with carving and painting. But cedar rope will always hold a special place in her heart.
“Cedar rope, it symbolizes unity, and I say unity, because you could take one strand of cedar bark, and it’s very weak and easily broken. But once you weave multiple strands together to make rope, it creates that strong bond, it’s unbreakable, and being First Nations, we are the original custodians of Mother Earth,” she said.
“If we come together, we can unite and just protect our resources so that we can continue living in these areas so that my son can harvest in the area and then his children and so on.”
Davis’ son has been a huge figure in her life. She has raised him as a single parent for close to nine years and Davis credits him with giving her motivation to keep going.
“We still face all of these stereotypes to this day, but now my culture is being celebrated more and more, and so that’s why I create as well, because I’m continuing on with this legacy and keeping this part of our culture alive,” she said.
“Art tells a story, and I’m helping share those stories and keeping this part of my culture alive so that my son never has to question his identity while growing up. I create so that my son can be proud of who he is, right from day one.”
In 2018, Davis relaunched her business that started in 2013 as a “profitable hobby” and had to be put on hold while she was in school. Now she is selling her designs to people in places as far away as Australia, Poland, Switzerland and New Zealand. She said that it is a great feeling to see people wearing her jewelry. But as an Indigenous artist, cultural appropriation is a major battle.
She said that companies overseas can steal designs online and mass produce them, so customers need to do their due diligence by researching artists and companies — who will clearly state which First Nation they belong to — to make sure their purchases are authentic.
“Our culture was stripped away from us and we weren’t allowed to practice it in any form. It was literally made illegal to have potlatches, so to have non-Indigenous people profiting off of our culture is downright disrespectful and sickening,” she said.
Davis uses a quote coined by Eighth Generations founder Louie Gong: “Support inspired natives and not native inspired.”
Now, Davis is nearing the end of her five-year plan and is always looking for what’s next. She has bigger goals than just her business.
“I want something bigger than that,” she said.
“I want to share my experience and hopefully help others too, because there’s a lot of things I wish I had someone to help me with.”
“A lot of the things I’m learning the hard way, but I’m learning, and I just keep thinking maybe that’s part of my mission, part of why I’m here, so that I can help other people.”