As a child, I grew up in a one-room house on the DEW Lines in the Arctic. My mother – Winnie Cockney – did the housework and raised us during the day, and in the evening she would always sit down at the table and work on embroidery and beading. When we moved in a larger house in Inuvik, she had her own sewing room and I used to go sit with her so she wouldn’t be alone. When I was eight, I asked if I could sew something. She cut some uppers for me and drew flower patterns and that is how I started beading too.
I was very shy as a child so I stayed at home a lot. During that time, my mother taught me how to make everything, including mukluks, mitts and braided mitt strings. My mother was known for making parkas, along with everything else. We used all kinds of fur including sealskin. She showed me how to use the leftover to make cushions and other items. I sewed for my younger siblings as well as my nieces and nephews until I was about 16 years old. That’s when my mother said I could start selling some of my items – which is how I made spare money while going to school.
What I like the most about making art is the satisfaction of making something with my own two hands. I like to make beaded pins and brooches, as well as sealskin mitts. I enjoy the various patterns on sealskin and I like that it’s an easy material to work with. I also use beaver fur as well as rabbit fur. I mainly sew with pearl beads, which are larger. I prefer to use pink and blue beads, especially the ones that glitter!
I am very inspired by our Inuvialuit style. Our traditional dress is starting to come back, through our drum dancing groups. I am also continuously inspired by the teachings of my mother, and the importance of carrying on the knowledge and skills that she passed on to me. I especially love to use the beading patterns that she used when she was learning how to sew as a young girl. Another inspiration was my Aunt Christina Felix. She owned a Fur Shop in Tuktoyaktuk for years and was very successful. My granddaughter is now learning how to sew, and she will continue to carry on their knowledge that way. That makes me incredibly happy and very proud.