Cheryl Fennell

North Slave
Primary Art Type: 

Artist Story

I have always loved fur. I grew up wearing fur in Yellowknife where I was born and in the Arctic where I lived for eight years after finishing school.  I have traveled all over the Circumpolar World and I’ve gotten to know Inuit people very well and we became like family. I love to honour the connections I’ve made by incorporating some of the things I’ve seen into my art. Being on the land with the Inuit people made me realize that fur is the warmest thing to wear, and it also happens to be versatile, beautiful, and unique. To witness that was a thing of beauty.

When I was little, my Dene mother told me to make a dress for my doll. She gave me scissors and some material and she just told me to do it, without instructions. Because I had to figure it out, that way of thinking has stuck with me ever since. Besides taking a middle school sewing class, no one else taught me how to sew. I eventually started to learn with some help from friends. There is a wonderful connection and relationship that happens during the process of learning through sewing. When I’m having a harder time making a piece, I try to perceive it as a teaching moment. It makes me feel like I’m constantly learning, which makes me feel alive.

Mostly, I make cuff bracelets, earrings, bow ties and key chains from sealskin. Working with sealskin can be difficult, but it feels fluid and intriguing to me. I especially love to incorporate it with other materials such as vintage leather purses, wooden furniture, or satin when designing a contemporary dress. I truly enjoy making art that is usable and practical. In this way, I reflect on and give honour to the fact that these animals have given their lives for a good reason.

The only thing I focus on when I make something is that I want it to feel good. Although complex art is beautiful, I am not a very complicated person and I’ve noticed that people often seem to find a refuge in simplicity. Maybe they need a little peace in their life. I love that I can create things that feel good to me, for others. Everybody has that capacity within them – the capacity to make this world beautiful, to illustrate the gem that they are. In a way, when someone creates art, it’s for other people to get inspired to do something themselves. Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if everyone did that? That’s how I like to live.

Artist Bio: 

Cheryl Fennell is of Metis background and was born in Yellowknife. Cheryl has traveled all over the circumpolar world and has lived in Cambridge Bay, Inuvik, Fort Smith and Yellowknife, where she now resides. When she creates, Cheryl loves to integrate traditional designs with contemporary ideas in a unique way. She prefers to work with sealskin and incorporates it in most of her sewing projects, such as unique, one-of-a-kind dresses, purses, jewelry, and her latest interest - furniture. She loves to explore and learn by undertaking new projects usually for her friends and loved ones. Cheryl sells her work on her own and at special events. She created sealskin key chains for a special NWT school project for junior kindergarteners and, most recently, created a special limited edition of her sealskin cuffs for Six Shooter Records to raise awareness for National Seal Products Day.

Last Updated: May 25, 2023

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