Tania Larsson designs contemporary, northern Indigenous adornment based on Gwich’in culture, created with land-based materials. She is innovative, driven, and dedicated to her art. Through social media, she promotes her culture, work and her passion for reclaiming Indigenous knowledge. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, with a focus in jewelry and digital arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts, May 2017. She was the apprentice to renown jeweler Keri Ataumbi during two years. Tania is one of the founding members of Dene Nahjo, an Indigenous innovation collective in Denendeh (Northwest Territories) working to advance social and environmental justice for northern peoples and promote Indigenous leadership. Born and raised in France, she is a Gwich’in and Swedish woman. Her late mother Shirley Firth was born on the trapline in Aklavik, Northwest Territories and went on to become a four-time Olympian who represented Canada in cross-country skiing. At the age of fifteen, Tania moved to Canada with her family to reconnect with her culture and the Gwich’in land. She has consistently sought opportunities to deepen her understanding of history and culture and to apply this learning to her artistic work.
"I design contemporary, northern indigenous adornment based on Gwich’in culture, created with land-based materials. I make these adornments with my people in mind, and by wearing my works; they will feel connected to our ancestors, our land, and our culture. As recently as the latter part of the 19th Century, we were stripped of our adornments because of their connection to shamanistic practices. Before this time we lived nomadically, dependent on the caribou. My indigenous audience will feel a connection to my work through the inherent knowledge and aesthetic contained in blood-memory. This art will be central in creating an evolving, northern indigenous aesthetic that will allow us to pair them with our grandmothers’ moccasins and our grandfathers’ wolverine fur-trimmed parkas, reclaiming and revitalizing these traditional pieces in a contemporary fashion. I welcome an audience who wears jewelry to make a statement; and who appreciates high quality craftmanship.My studio practice starts on the land. Most of the materials I use have been harvested from nature through subsistence hunting, in which the moose, the muskox or the caribou meat is shared in the community. I use the skin, the brains and a leg bone to make brain tanned hides. This process requires a lot of physical work that takes two to three weeks. Once the hide is finished, I create a pattern that is based in traditional techniques and designs passed down through generations in our Gwich’in tribe. I use antique and vintage beads to decorate the hide, creating colorful and intricate designs. Another part of the animal that I use is the hair of the moose and caribou. I dye it before sewing it down on hide to create a tuft. Finally, I use the horns and antlers, cutting, shaping and, polishing them to use in my jewelry. I incorporate these natural elements with silver, gold and precious stones to create a striking contrast of textures, color and materials. We are taught to use every part of the animal when we hunt, and it is crucial for me to incorporate that part of my culture in my studio practice."