Destiny Seymour, an Anishinaabe interior designer and textile designer, has been working her way towards her dream job her whole life — whether she realized it at the time or not. Growing up, her hardworking mother would keep her entertained in the back of her hair salon with myriad art supplies while her mother tended to clients. Destiny would transform the materials into fantastic creative works, and her little hands became increasingly fascinated by constructing dollhouses — she wasn’t interested in the dolls themselves, rather she was most curious about conceptualizing and making their structures.
She’d later work for an architecture firm, channeling this early love for designing into her work. But running deeper in her veins than any passion is Destiny’s Anishinaabe heritage. “My family is from the Peguis First Nation in the Treaty 1 territory of Manitoba, [Canada], which is about two hours north of the city of Winnipeg where I currently live and work,” she shares. With her culture providing her guidance and support, Destiny followed her intuition to take the next step in her career. In both her professional and personal world, it was clear to her that her voice and talent were needed elsewhere.
“It was very challenging to find interior finishes and materials that respectfully reflected local Indigenous people in Manitoba to put into the design projects I was working on,” Destiny recalls. “Nothing existed. I decided to learn how to create these textiles on my own.” Two years ago, she left her day job to chase down her dream job, but not before she took several night classes on perfecting her craft, hours of research, and countless museum visits to learn from artifacts left behind by her ancestors. Now Destiny runs Indigo Arrows, a beautiful line of pillows, table runners, napkins, placemats, and tea towels inspired by her Anishinaabe heritage.
Today Destiny is sharing her path to starting her own creative business, how her Indigenous heritage and the unimaginable struggles of her family have informed her work, how consumers can inform themselves and not contribute to appropriation, and more. —Kelli
Thank you to Chelsey Luger for sharing Destiny’s work with us. You can check out more of Chelsey’s work here.
Photography by Alan Greyeyes
Tell us about your heritage and the traditions you hold. How do these inform your work?
My name is Destiny Seymour and I’m an Anishinaabe interior designer. My family is from the Peguis First Nation in the Treaty 1 territory of Manitoba, which is about two hours north of the city of Winnipeg where I currently live and work. I would have to say the traumatic educational experiences that my parents and family members faced in the past is what drives me to work so hard today. They are survivors of the Canadian residential school system. They were taken away from their families as children and put into a boarding school. If you haven’t heard about the history of these practices that were forced upon Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States, I encourage you to learn about them. As a mother of two little girls, I couldn’t imagine anyone taking them away from me. My design work is reviving the cultural identity of my ancestors that these schools wanted to eliminate.
What is your background? What career steps or personal steps led you to Indigo Arrows?
I have my Masters in Interior Design from the University of Manitoba. I worked at a local architecture firm for over 10 years before leaving to start my own business called Indigo Arrows. It was very challenging to find interior finishes and materials that respectfully reflected local Indigenous people in Manitoba to put into the design projects I was working on. Nothing existed. I decided to learn how to create these textiles on my own. It took two years of sourcing everything I needed to create a home decor line. I took silk screen classes in the evening after work. I went to the Manitoba Museum to research pottery and bone tools that were uncovered through archeological excavations. Some of these pottery shards were over 3,000 years old with these beautiful designs. That was the beginning of Indigo Arrows. It’s been two years now that I left my day job to follow my dream job!
Image above: Destiny at work creating products for her home decor line.
At what age did you realize you were drawn to creative practices? Do you have a favorite childhood memory of making things with family members?
My mother always inspired me. She is so hardworking and generous. She was also an entrepreneur. She started her own hair salon when I was six years old. She had a room for me in the back that she filled with all kinds of art supplies to keep me busy since she worked till 8pm every evening. This was probably the reason I went into architecture. I made so many dollhouses during those years. I would never play with the dolls. I just liked designing and building each little house. I would give them away to kids in my neighborhood. As a mother, I also keep lots of art supplies around for my daughters. Now our home is filled with so much art created by them. I love it!
Image above: One of Destiny’s daughter’s surveying her work.
You describe your line as picking up where your ancestors left off. How do you take these traditional designs and put a fresh spin on them?
It all came together when I was visiting a friend that worked a our local museum. He is the head archeologist there. He is also Indigenous and looks at origin of each piece with an Indigenous worldview. This was the missing piece I was searching for and that’s when everything came to together for me. He taught me so much about the pottery shards and bone tools. These were the first home goods of my people, from thousands of years ago right here on this land. I really love that history! My designs are inspired by these ancient patterns. I include a description of the pattern and the land it came from. I also name each pattern in my own language, Anishinaabemowin. My home decor line is now made up of pillows, table runners, napkins, placemats, and tea towels.
Let's start by asking questions as consumers. Where do these patterns come from? Who makes these products?
There's a lot of cultural appropriation happening in both the fashion and interior design industries. How can consumers ensure they're honoring Indigenous culture when they seek out to include certain patterns and motifs in their home?
Let’s start by asking questions as consumers. Where do these patterns come from? Who makes these products? I would encourage consumers to buy local and shop all these small businesses that are popping up. You can get quality craftsmanship and authenticity when buying from a small business owner that you can’t match when buying from big box stores. I look it as an investment piece for your home.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I love going to pow wows when I get the chance. I get very inspired by the music, the beautiful dancers, and the artisan craft markets they have. I also still visit the Manitoba Museum. They have over 3 million pottery shards in their collection.
Image above: A Grandmother Moon Throw Quilt by Indigo Arrows
What is the most challenging aspect of running your business? Do you have any advice for others looking to venture out and start their own business?
For me it’s [accepting] my limitations. I’m always pushing myself to work harder and to always try [to] do more. I have two young daughters. I can’t always be working. My business is textile design and interior design projects. A big lesson for me from these past two years is that it’s okay to say “no.” I can’t be a good mother, partner, or business owner if I’m burnt out and sick. My advice would be to find business mentor(s) in your field. This is so valuable. They can help you with aspects of your business that you didn’t know you needed.
What wisdom do you have for others who are seeking to learn more about their own heritage and ways to honor it?
If you can, reach out to family members. Listening to the stories from my parents and family members about their past is both heartbreaking and amazing. I’m so proud of their resilience to survive the Canadian residential school system and then still give so much love and generosity to others. Attend cultural events when you can. I’ve learned so much from being involved in the Arts community in my own city.
Image above: Destiny holds an Ishkoday Pillow in Natural
I love how these Indigenous patterns that my daughters see in their home is their 'normal' when it wasn’t for my generation or past generations.
What do you think is essential in creating a space that feels like home?
For me it’s art and texture. My husband works in the music industry. We have beautiful posters framed from events that he has attended and Indigenous artists that he knows. We have our daughters’ artwork up everywhere. I also have Indigo Arrows pillows around our home. I love how these Indigenous patterns that my daughters see in their home is their “normal” when it wasn’t for my generation or past generations.
Image above: A pretty pile of Niswi Pillows
What's next for Indigo Arrows? Do you have any fun projects in the works?
Oh my gosh, there is so much I want to do! I want to create a fabric line from watercolor sketches that I have been creating. I’m working on a bedding line and trying to make sure I can keep production within Manitoba. I want to create commercially grade fabrics with my patterns that architects and interior designers can source for their projects. I would love to design rugs. Also I would like to design more furniture. Haha, see, this is where I take a deep breath and figure out which one to tackle first.