Tsēma belongs to the Tahltan Nation of Northern BC, near Telegraph Creek and the Stikine River. While she was always artistically inclined, receiving a scholarship from the YVR Art Foundation resulted in the realization that she wanted to be a full-time artist. In 2005, Tsēma received a YVR Art Foundation Youth Scholarship which enabled her to study under established artist Vernon Stevens at ‘Ksan Historical Village in Hazelton, BC. In 2008, she was again recognized by the YVR Art Foundation and used this second opportunity to learn sewing, beading, and tanning hide in the traditional Tahltan way. Tsēma received her Masters of Fine Arts Degree at the Ontario College of Art and Design in spring 2016.
Receiving a YVR Art Foundation Scholarship was the reason I decided to become an artist. My mentorship with Vernon Stevens strengthened my successful application portfolio to Emily Carr University of Art & Design. In 2008, I won my second YVR Art Foundation Scholarship, where I shifted my focus to a Tahltan style of traditional art-making. I employ knowledge from both experiences to teach Indigenous art practices and theorize Indigenous philosophies for art-making. After finishing my studies at Emily Carr, I was accepted into the Ontario College of Art and Design. I have since theorized potlatch methodologies for my Master’s thesis at OCAD. I would not be where I am today without the YVR Art Foundation Scholarships I won.
Under the direction of Vernon Stevens, I learned Northwest Coast wood carving and formline design. It was a holistic learning experience of concept development, tool making, and design. The methods and processes I learned from Vernon are methodologies I continue to use in my art practice. I made a relief-carved yellow cedar steamed-bent bowl to display at the Vancouver International Airport. When working with my grandmother in the summer of 2008, I learned to sew, bead and tan a moose hide in traditional Tahltan style. I made a Tahltan Firebag and wrote an essay on traditional Tahltan art styles based on ethnographical research and practice-based research from my time in Tahltan territory learning my elders. My Grandmother and I made a collaborative project, entitled “My Grandma was an Indian Princess” for the YVR Art Foundation’s exhibition Interweavings, held at the Richmond Art Gallery in 2015.