Sustainable Craft – Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design

Sustainable Craft


Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design has been sustaining and celebrating cultural and social practices for 50 years. We believe craft sustains Unama’ki, a sense of well-being, the economy and creative communities.

The Sustainable Craft Program is an initiative aimed at supporting the sustainable development of the Unama’ki Cape Breton Island craft sector. We understand a sustainable craft practice as the idea of balancing meeting our current needs with the needs of future generations through applied skills and material-based knowledge.

However, sustainability can have many meanings. We understand sustainability to be social, cultural, economic and environmental.

• A culturally sustainable craft practice might take form through community teaching and the passing down of cultural traditions and knowledge.
• An economically sustainable craft practice would support a circular economy and the artist’s livelihood.
• An environmentally sustainable craft practice may consider the impact of the studio and the sourcing of materials.
• A socially sustainable craft practice may take labor relations into consideration and ethical working conditions.

We live, work, play and create art in Unama’ki, the land of fog. It is our responsibility to consider how we can contribute to a more sustainable future with craft practices.


As part of our new Sustainable Craft Practice program, which is aimed at supporting the sustainable development of the Unama’ki – Cape Breton Island Craft Sector, Cape Breton Centre For Craft & Design presents our workshop series.

Sustainability & Mi’kmaw Ribbon Dress Making with Tina and Amber Bernard

P’jila’si and join the L’nuk mother and daughter as they move toward reclaiming their people’s history, looking past the history of residential school, and other disruptive events that have happened to L’nuk of Mi’kma’ki. This two-day workshop is part of the Sustainable Craft Program by the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design and is taking place on Tuesday, August 23 and Wednesday, August 24 from 6-9PM at the Potlotek Community Hall. Amber and Tina Bernard want to take you on a short journey of Ribbon Dress Making, while using it to explore what it means to be L’nuk in a quickly changing world. It will be a two-day journey, that is infused with honoring of our past, and present, punctuated by the smell of Sweetgrass and Sage to help connect our minds, and Spirit in a light hearted manner.

Learn Mi’kmaw Ribbon Dress Making and the tradition of meaning-making through ancient design and colour elements that connect traditional past to making the present more meaningful.
Our end result will be learning basic sewing skills, and having a beautiful Ribbon Dress that is meaningful both to you, and honors your Clan, and our L’nuk Ancestors.

* All participants must have a beginner understanding of sewing and sewing machines. All materials are included and sewing machines will be provided.

Coffee, tea, and snacks will be provided. Keeping sustainability in mind, please feel free to bring your own mug.

This workshop is free of charge to participants thanks to funding from Canada Council for the Arts.

To Register:

Visit to register.

For more information, contact Bailee Higgins, Sustainable Craft Coordinator, at

About the Facilitators:

“Woman Who is like Two Brown Bears,” aka Tina Bernard, a mother of four grown children. She is partnered for life with “White Bear Man,” aka Leonard Bernard of We’koqma’q. Tina has enjoyed doing group work and community engagement for most of her career. One area she is most excited by is healing past events with present realities, as she did with Tatamagouche Centre’s “Peace and Friendship Program.” Today, she is greatly excited by the reclaiming of L’nuk symbolisms, idioms, and hieroglyphs she sees being used everywhere in Mi’kma’ki and sees herself as a cheerleader for it. She was inspired along with her eldest daughter to deliver this opportunity to other L’nu!

“Swirling Mist of Stars,” aka Amber Bernard, lives in We’koqma’q and is the Eldest daughter of Tina and Leonard Bernard. She comes from a long line of historic Mi’kmaw cultural protectors like Gabriel Sylliboy and Annie Mae Bernard. She’s an award-winning journalist and an emerging filmmaker dedicated to telling the stories of her people. She is also very passionate about protecting Mother Earth and recently attended the United Nations COP 26 Climate Conference in Scotland. Today, she and her mother, continue their journey to assist in the reclamation of L’nuk voices, symbolisms, identity, and strength through various means, as in this workshop ‘Sewing Our Past with Our Present.”

Sustainable Pigments with Michelle Ryan 

Calling all painters! 

Join us on Thursday, August 25 from 5-8:30 in Port Hastings at the Strait Area Museum (24 Hwy 19) with Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design and Michelle Ryan. Learn to safety locate, forage, identify and work with naturally occurring pigments. By the end of the workshop, participants will have basic knowledge of traditional paint making across multiple mediums and will go home with a natural pigment for use in their art. While this workshop is accessible to all skill levels, a working understanding of painting is recommended. The approaches covered can be transferred to any medium that uses pigment in craft production.

Participants will learn:

  • Proper safety protocol when working with pigments
  • Foraging and identification for naturally occurring suitable materials
  • Processing materials to be maker-ready
  • How to combine with different binders for multiple types of paint

Snacks and refreshments will be provided, keeping sustainability in mind – we invite you to bring your own mug.

This workshop is free of charge to participants thanks to funding from Canada Council for the Arts.

To Register: 

Visit register. 

For more information, contact Bailee Higgins, Sustainable Craft Coordinator, at, by phone at 902-539-7491 ext 114. 

About the Facilitator:

Michelle Ryan is a visual artist from Unama’ki Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Based in Port Hastings, Michelle is inspired by nature and everything vintage. Her work is down to earth and eco-inspired at its’ core. For the past five years, she has painted only with all natural earth pigments.

Michelle has undertaken research into how to forage for art supplies, to finding pigments and to processing them for use in her art. Since developing chemical allergies, she needed to find a way to continue her creative practice without the use of added chemicals or preservatives often found in mass-produced art supplies. With the help of a few tools, the earth, and her hands, Michelle is committed to sharing and preserving traditional and sustainable natural craft techniques.

Michelle has a background in interior design, business and photography. When she is not creating, you can find her working and managing her family-run printing company or sourcing natural art supplies.



Sustainable Pottery with David McMillan – participants learned to locate and test their own clay and glaze materials for use in pottery. This workshop covered the sourcing, harvesting and processing of local ceramic materials. 

David McMillan was born in Brandon, Manitoba. Moving west he completed his BFA with honors at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design focusing on critical theory in contemporary ceramics. In the summers he lived in a tent under an old growth cedar tree and learned production pottery in a four-year apprenticeship. 

Sustainable Fibre Arts with Mel Sweetnam – participants learned to make cordage from plants, including invasive species, and from used paper, such as coffee filters, tea bags, newsprint, etc. while discussing challenges and opportunities to a sustainable craft practice. Cordage has been essential to human survival for hundreds of thousands of years. Cordage can be used for hundreds of everyday purposes, from wrapping presents to basketry and more. 

Mel Sweetnam, of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, is a world renowned natural dye educator and fibre artist. From her studio in St Ann’s Bay, she supports tens of thousands of natural dye practitioners around the world, through her very popular Natural Dye Education Facebook Group, and her guided series of comprehensive online courses. Her work is grounded in ecologically sustainable methods and materials, the transmission of historically accurate natural dye knowledge to ensure its survival and making the applied chemistry of natural dyeing understandable to everyone.

Sustainable Beadwork with Raechel Wastesicoot

This workshop aimed to share land-based teachings that promote sustainability through the art of beading. Participants learned from one another through a beading session and story sharing.

Raechel Wastesicoot is a mixed Kanien’kehá:ka beadworker currently residing in Tkaronto, Ontario. Her mother’s family is from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, and her father’s family immigrated to Tkaronto from Northern Italy in the early 1960s.  Her beadwork follows a teaching passed down to her: from the land, for the land and by the land. Her work comprises contemporary pieces featuring upcycled, vintage and harvested materials. Natural materials that are gifts from the land, such as antler, caribou fur (a shared practice passed down to her from a Cree Elder), leather and porcupine quills, are instrumental in how her work comes together.  She is also passionate about helping Indigenous youth connect to their culture through land-based teachings, nature conservation, beadwork, and food.

Sustainable Jewellery with Dorothée Rosen – This workshop addressed several components of sustainability including environmental, economic and social practices in jewellery. Economical sustainability was addressed by looking at the myriad factors which influence pricing our hand-crafted work. Topics included how to price for wholesale and retail, and what impact our pricing has on other makers.

Dorothée Rosen is a full time goldsmith, and thus an entrepreneur in the arts. She graduated from Halifax’s NSCAD University with a major in jewellery design and metalsmithing, and a minor in art history (focus craft) in 2005. Her studio is in Halifax. There, Dorothée creates ready-to-wear and custom work in gold and silver. Constantly striving to improve her sustainability practices, she has worked with Fairtrade and Fairmined metals. Both are assurance labels that certify gold from small-scale mining organizations embracing responsible practices. This has huge socio-economic and environmental impact for the gold miners and their communities.