A local Metis fashion designer received the opportunity of a lifetime when she was asked to create a one-of-a-kind beadwork piece for a Hollywood celebrity.
Christine Tournier, creator of SS River Designs based out of St. Louis, was honoured when her friends asked her to bead a custom medallion that would be gifted to Jason Momoa, an A-list actor best known for his roles in Game of Thrones and Aquaman.
Tournier received the opportunity thanks to Clint Rudderham, a former Prince Albert resident who has since moved to Alberta. Rudderham was chosen to appear in two episodes of the television show, See, alongside Momoa. As big fans of Momoa’s work, Rudderham and his wife, Colleen, began watching See at the same time he began his journey with vision loss. The creators of See posted on social media that the television production was seeking actors who are blind or partially sighted to portray characters in the Apple TV+ series and Colleen knew her husband would be perfect for the part.
“The reality is, it’s one of those stories where you almost don’t believe what’s going on and it sounds like fiction,” said Rudderham. “To be part of the visually impaired and blind community and be given such an opportunity was quite amazing.”
Rudderham said both him and Colleen were awestruck by the level of kindness and acceptance they received on set.
“We were welcomed with such open arms,” recalled Rudderham. “You have to realize; this is an Indigenous couple from northern Saskatchewan, and we were now sitting in Toronto and surrounded by the likes of Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. Everyone was so kind.”
See is a television series set in the far future where humankind has lost its sense of sight; the father of twins who are born with the mythic ability to see must protect his tribe against a threatened queen. The show stars household names like Momoa and Dave Batista.
“My friend told me about the post when it came out and knew her husband would be perfect for a role,” Tournier explained. “It was a long process for them, but the stars aligned, and they were able to travel to Toronto for filming.”
According to Tournier, not only did the production give opportunities to Canadian actors who are partially sighted or blind to be a part of the project, they also had a blindness consultant that was involved with everything; from working with Momoa to making sure blind and blow-vision actors were accommodated on set.
After coming home to Alberta between filming, Rudderham and his wife brainstormed ways to thank a big star like Momoa for his inclusivity and kindness. Colleen then came up with the idea to get a special piece of beadwork made that represents both their own Indigenous cultures and Momoa’s native Hawaiian and Polynesian roots.
The Rudderhams decided there was no one better to ask to create such an important and momentous gift than their friend, Tournier.
“We had to get Christine with her talent involved,” said Rudderham. “It was something that was made and given out of respect and was accepted out of respect.”
The beaded medallion featured a turtle, an eagle and a teepee, all significant to First Nations and Metis land teachings. The concept also included a rainbow and a flower native to Hawaii, making sure to showcase Momoa’s heritage and cultural connections
Tournier was told the actor graciously accepted the gift and was happy to have some photos taken with the couple.
“You always hear how amazing of a person [Momoa] is and it’s true. He’s an incredible individual,” added Rudderham. “He welcomed us into his trailer and took the time to listen to my wife’s explanation of the medallion and was very, very gracious.”
SS River Designs is a women’s wear clothing line named after the South Saskatchewan River. Learning how to bead and sew from a young age, Tournier was compelled to keep the tradition alive. She specializes in beadwork inspired by her French and Metis background and started SS River Designs as a way to connect people to art, culture, and heritage through fashion.
Tournier hand beads original art-to-wear designs and using innovative technology, digitally prints the beadwork onto fabric and sews it into contemporary, wearable pieces, to make these Metis-inspired garments more widely available to all people.