A puppet made by Asham Creations on the Siksika Nation in southern Alberta is fast becoming a hit at Christmas time.
And that means owner Laura Asham is spending hours in her sewing room making little dresses and ribbon shirts for the puppets.
“When we get an order, my whole house is busy,” said Asham who added that the entire family is involved in the production process. “I’m working in here, my sons in the next room, he’s doing all the foam, my husband stuffs the hands and the arms, and my older daughter and younger daughter does the moccasins.”
Asham Creations is an award winning business. From buckskin wedding cakes, to beaded horse regalia, there isn’t much Asham can’t create.
She learned the art from her mother and sister and has been designing beadwork since she was seven years old.
Now there’s something about these puppets that make them a community favorite.
Each comes in a set dress in traditional clothing and moccasins with attention to detail.
“This is my first grandma. When I was creating her, I really needed to feature the face,” said Asham. “So I made wrinkles on the side of her face and then I put grey hair on her.”
Her idea started in 2010 and Asham’s daughter was entering an Indian princess pageant at her school and needed a talen to compete.
“I told her, well why don’t you do puppets for a talent,” said Asham. “I was telling her you can do the puppets and say some Blackfoot words, do a little skit, whatever.
“So she said yeah. And of course, being me, I couldn’t just do a sock puppet, I had to do more.”
Asham did her research, created her own patterns – and two days and 11 hours later created her first puppet.
“I had a lot of material left over to see if I could do a set and I wanted to do a boy and a girl,” she said. “So I made my first set of puppets. So I brought them around the community and they were saying they look professionally done.”
She sold her first set and it took off from there.
Asham got orders from schools and daycares – even from Health Services on Siksika.
Now her puppets have become a learning tool – a fun way for children to have conversations in Indigenous languages.
“The kids relate to the puppets,” she said. “When we have them at the pow wow or any place, the kids will say, ‘hey, they go to my school.’ It brings a lot of joy. It brings a lot of goodness out of a lot of people.”
Asham has sold her puppets across southern Alberta and in the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba.
Now she wants to expand nationally.
“These are my babies and they’re going across Canada,” Asham said with a laugh.
“They’re going to be leaving me and going into good homes.”