Fredrick Spence, spirit name, Thunder Bear, is an Ojibwe carver born and raised in Peguis First Nation. His art journey began as a youngster through endlessly playing with Lego and drawing comic book characters. He is a self-taught carver who credits his art teachers caring energy for inspiring his early creativity. Fredrick moved to Winnipeg at the age of 17 to work in construction. It was during this period of his life that a tragic accident occurred, and he lost his dear friend. Without the proper supports and outlets, Fredrick turned to substances to cope with the mental health issues that followed. His creativity also suffered.
After years of gentle encouragement from a colleague, Fredrick decided to pursue the electrical trade. Fredrick moved to Dauphin for school and eventually earned his red seal electrician journeyperson certification in 2016. It was around this time that Fred decided to change his life and walk away from substance dependency. During this time, art became an alternative outlet and coping mechanism. He began exploring woodworking and carving to keep his hands and mind busy. Shortly thereafter he met a woman who encouraged and supported him and eventually brought Kona Salix into the world: his son and the joy of his life.
Passionate about nature and traditional teachings, he stumbled on soapstone carving and found it to be the medicine he was missing – a perfect combination of art and tradition. It was the therapy and creative outlet he needed. Carving soapstone became such an important mental health outlet for Fredrick that he decided to share this artform with others, starting with offering free carving workshops at Siloam Mission. This is where his idea for workshops and art therapy took shape. His experience inspired him with hopes that his art form can influence other’s lives in as impactful way as it has his own. Believing he can make a difference by changing one person’s life.
Fredrick has a drive to support Indigenous people and communities to connect with natural healing practices that blend art, creating and traditional teachings. Seeing the impact of intergenerational trauma, addiction and loss of culture, Fredrick not only has a passion to bring this art form to Indigenous people but also to build connection and community in the process of creating art.
Fredrick has showcased his work for the first time at the WAG CRAFTED 2021 show and sale. He has done multiple workshops throughout Manitoba communities and schools. Fredrick dreams of expanding his workshops across Indigenous communities in Canada, starting an Indigenous art gallery and developing his own skill and showcasing his art worldwide. When he is not carving soapstone or spending time with his son, Fredrick works with a not-for-profit called Waterways spending summers running canoe programs in first nation communities and with the charity of Spirit North through the winter.