I was taught to sew and bead as a young girl growing up in Trout Lake. When I moved to Fort Liard, my mother-in-law taught me to make birchbark baskets and decorate them with porcupine quills. I instantly fell in love with the feel and the softness of the bark, and the smell of nature when you put on the quills. I also love the smell of the roots. When I make baskets, I release my stress. It’s just like being connected to nature.
The key is finding the perfect bark. I spend a lot of time in the forest looking for the perfect tree; peeling small pieces of bark from trees and seeing if it is flexible. I am very careful when I take birchbark so I don’t damage the tree and introduce disease. I am very respectful of the raw materials I am given. I usually make flowers with the quills and sometimes birds like chickadees and grey jays. One time I did a humming bird! I like the natural colour of quills. If they are dyed, after a while they fade.
When I’m finished making a basket, I feel a sense of accomplishment and I want to make and try different shapes and quill patterns! I just love it.
Alma is a resident of Fort Liard, NT and considers herself an established artist. She started at a young age and has been mentored by her peers. Although she has no formal training in the arts, she has learned a great deal through trial and error.