A living gallery

Whose House? Erica’s house

Erica Wilson, a Metis/Anishinaabe theatre artist and workshop facilitator, has created a home where every item tells a story. That includes a painting gifted by a friend in Kelowna, a mannequin head discovered in Wilson’s first apartment when they were 18, and even the appliances they received as gifts from family members.

Each piece contributes to the story of their life, turning Wilson’s home into a gallery of memories.

“All the items, whether found, purchased or received as gifts, represent different elements/chapters of my life,” Wilson says.

Nestled in the corner of the room is Wilson’s beloved cat, Gunther, a faithful companion for more than seven years.

Among the cherished items, there’s a painting Wilson acquired following a three-year engagement with a production called God’s Lake, inspired by life in God’s Lake, Man.

“It’s about a person’s experience living up north in Manitoba,” Wilson says.

At the heart of Wilson’s living space stands an altar. Its centrepiece is a small piece of paper bearing the words “brave,” “fun” and “loyal” from one of Wilson’s self-esteem and positivity-boosting workshops.

“The way you perceive yourself isn’t how people see you. So I get everyone to put that piece of paper on their back. And everyone goes and writes positive things behind their back,” Wilson says.

“This piece of paper represents how people perceive me.”

In addition to their workshops, Wilson displays their artistic touch through jewelry.

“I create medicine jewelry right here in my bedroom. For the longest time, people would admire my original piece, and I’d be hesitant to make more,” they say.

“I thought, ‘No, this is mine. I want it.’ But after some reflection and advice from others, I realized that if I have something people want, I should share it.”

Wilson’s medicine jewelry blends meaningful elements from Indigenous traditions: tobacco for prayer, sage for cleansing, cedar for balance, sweetgrass for unity, rose for self-love and a touch of glitter for fun, according to one of their Instagram posts.

Wilson’s hobby blossomed into a small business, and two companies have purchased Wilson’s creations as graduation gifts for their students. Wilson also markets their jewelry through social media, attracting both friends and strangers interested in the pieces.

Wilson’s fridge is a dynamic canvas of their life, adorned with postcards and memories from their travels, work and various life events. It’s a colourful glimpse into Wilson’s journey, mirroring the connected and meaningful tapestry of their home.

“Some stuff I’ve had since I was 16 that still kind of poke around here,” Wilson says.

The kitchen - “I have physically never purchased a table or chairs in my life. So for two years when my roommate moved out, I didn’t have tables or chairs here. I was just like, nope, that’s just how I live. And then, finally, someone gifted me the table, and someone gifted me the chairs.”

Old memories - “I actually found (the chess set) when I was 18 going to a rave at Ross Avenue, and I actually refurbished it back to where it is now. I had to take it to my shop class when I was in school and do it together.”

At the heart of Erica’s home - “This is my public altar, and I have one in my bedroom. But these are, again, things I’ve found or bought or had over the years.”

Current read (left) - "This is what I’m reading right now. It’s a perspective research-based novel on ravens.”

The bathroom (right) - “I love my bathroom. I have a giant clawfoot bathtub. And seasonally, I work at Lush, so I get like a year’s worth of bath bombs for free!”

Published in Volume 78, Number 03 of The Uniter (September 21, 2023)

Related Reads