I make birchbark baskets and moose hide slippers, gloves and mitts. They keep me busy and I enjoy making them. I never really used to sell my art, but people would see my work and put in orders.
My mom taught me to sew when I was about 14. I had just come back from residential school. Even though I was older, she still showed me how to sew. I sewed for my own family. I still do the same today. I get the hide from my husband who shoots the moose and a friend tans it for me. I taught my daughter to do beadwork and I am trying to teach my granddaughter too.
I learned to make baskets from my mother-in-law when I was about 20 years old. She was one of the people who started making baskets in Fort Liard and was the first one to put porcupine quills on her baskets. Her name was Sarah Edda. Before that I was just sewing moose hide so I was grateful to learn something new.
When I make something specifically for someone, I always ask what shape they want and what colours or designs to use. Otherwise I just use whatever I have on hand. I really like making the designs. I don’t know how many baskets I have made but I was looking in my big box of patterns the other day and wondered if I had actually made all the baskets I had those patterns for. There were a lot of them.
I harvest my own birch bark. My husband cuts the trees down and then I peel them. Then we use the logs for firewood. It is really important for us to use everything from the tree. In the fall we will get a porcupine and I take the quills off and dye them. You don’t flatten then them for birch bark like you do with sewing. You just put them in water and soften them up and then you can use them easily.