When the pandemic hit in 2020, bailey macabre was a professional hair stylist. In an instant, their income evaporated.
But in the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), bailey saw an opportunity. They had been working on a comic book, drawing it painstakingly by hand. “The second that you start outlining it, if you make a mistake, you have to completely restart it,” bailey says.
They convinced their husband to invest the CERB money in an iPad, to help them with their art practice. They laid out a business plan to pay off the investment over a year by selling art.
As a “child of the ‘80s,” bailey is inspired by neon and bright colours, they say. They practiced on the iPad by making a series of drawings inspired by the minimalist pop art of Patrick Nagel, a favourite artist.
bailey took Nagel’s drawings, “which tend to be very white and very skinny, and ‘Indigenized’ them by adding earrings, a breadth of skin tones, beadwork, and medicine to the designs.”
They posted their art on Twitter and Instagram, where they already had a small following from their posts on Indigeneity, colonization and activism. “Once I started sharing my artwork, that audience grew quickly,” bailey says.
Their first art sale featured prints from that series, called “Indigenize Nagel.” Three weeks after that first drop, bailey had paid off the cost of the iPad. “It’s kind of taken off from there and spun out of control,” they say.
bailey is a nêhiyaw ayâhkwêw/michif and Ukrainian artist based on Snuneymuxw homelands, recently known as Nanaimo. They identify as agender, queer, disabled and neurodivergent.
The Discourse reached out to bailey to create the design for this year’s limited-edition tote bags, inspired by their creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to community.
bailey worked through several iterations of the design, aiming to reflect the Coast Salish territories where we live and the values of community journalism that The Discourse holds dear.
The result is a beautiful circular design, with the word “community” encapsulated by trees, and the word “care” spelled out with hands in American Sign Language (ASL).
“I obviously like living on the Island; we’re so surrounded by trees and forests,” says bailey. “[Trees] mean a lot to me. And pretty much everyone I know that lives here finds them very grounding and magical. And so I wanted to emphasize their existence.”
The design also reflects The Discourse’s commitment to lifting up unheard voices, bailey says. “It just seems like you guys are really interested in proper representation and giving voices to people who usually are shunned by the media. And so I feel like bringing in community and disability and all that type of thing is kind of a way to exemplify — this is what you guys are about.”
The hands represent diversity through the use of different tones and in the use of ASL. bailey also chose to add traditional tattoos on one of the hands. “I always try to Indigenize anything that I’m working on. So for me, having those hand tattoos is just a way to kind of be like, hey, there’s Native people here.”
While the tattoos aren’t a specific traditional design, they draw on ideas from nêhiyaw and other Indigenous tattooing traditions, including the use of lines in specific numbers and the use of circles or dots. It’s “a way for me to connect Indigenous cultures across multiple nations,” they say.
“So many of our pre-colonial traditions were lost due to assimilation and genocide, and many of us are the first or second generation of people trying to reclaim all that has been lost and stolen from us,” bailey says. “In some cases that means reconnecting to those traditions, while in some instances it can mean forging new ones. I think tattoos are a great bridge between pre-colonial traditions and our modern experience as Indigenous people, and for me — someone who loves drawing hands — they are an excellent signifier of those struggles we’ve faced as a people.”
Next year, bailey is looking forward to the publication of the first children’s book they’ve illustrated. “That’s really big,” they say. Victoria-based Medicine Wheel Publishing will release the book, written by Métis author Willie Poll, in May.
bailey will also attend the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival for the second time. In 2022, they created the festival’s land acknowledgement comic. They had the opportunity to suggest the artist for this year’s land acknowledgement comic and will join that artist for a panel discussion. “That’s what I’m most looking forward to,” they say.