‘Sit up straight and don’t give up’: A mother’s message inspires new Dene art shop

Rose Martel, co-owner of Dene Diva'z attributes her new business to her mom. (Mariah Caruso/CKLB)

It all started with a promise.

“I told her one of these days, I’m going to follow my dream and I’m going to own a store.”

Rose Martel remembers making this promise, tending to her mother’s bedside with a needle, thread and some beads- ­three years ago.

Martel did this until the remaining moments of her mother’s life.

“I’d take old sewing projects, and I’d sit with her and (help) her at the same time,” she says.

Martel felt grounded in her beadwork, something she struggled with as a child.

“She always watched me, and told me, ‘Sit up straight and don’t give up’.”

This helped Martel realize “I can make a better life for myself and for other people.”

Martel struggled with addiction for over 20 years and even found herself in jail.

But through her beadwork, Martel was able to keep her promise.

Now Martel and co-owner Lesley Ann Evans have a storefront dedicated to supporting other beaders, sewers and artisans of the North.

Dene Diva’z has been open for less than two weeks and business is booming, says Martel.

The ladies are committed to ensuring artists are compensated fairly and recognized for their work.

“Our goal is to treat everybody equal and give people what they’re worth,” she says.

Traditional goods, such as “moccasins take hours to make,” she adds.

The shop is filled with birch boxes, furs, earrings and even pop sockets.

Having the shop, Martel says, keeps her focused on her healing journey.

“I can’t see me doing anything else,” she says.

The shop is located in the former Just Furs building and is open seven days.

The pair is working on a website and beading workshops for residents in the future.

Artists looking to sell their work can contact the owners on its official Facebook Dene Diva’z Design.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com