Gail Ann Raddi
The first time I remember sewing I was in Paulatuk living with relatives for a while. My auntie made me sew – I didn’t like it and said I would never do it again. But when I was about six years old, I was in foster homes and spent time with some of the elders, like Jessie Cote, who really inspired me to sew. I asked a million questions to learn as much as I could from her.
Today art is my passion I don’t think I could go without it. I spend a lot of time on the land with my family where we work a lot with traditional food – but I need to sew! I just want to make so many different things to see how they will turn out. I like sewing for kids because they look so cute when they are dressed up. I like making canvass mukluks because kids always think they can run faster when they put them on. I put elastics in them to make them unique and to help them stay on.
I still talk a lot about Jessie and what she has taught me. It is a tradition I would like to see passed on so I teach others at the youth centre and at the college. It makes me proud that other people are learning.
Gail Ann was born and raised in Inuvik and has always been interested in arts and crafts. As a young girl, she would sit and watch elders sew and bead. When she started kindergarten, she would hang out with the language teacher because she did a lot of sewing. At the age of six, her auntie made her help make her own parka. Gail remembers thinking it was so ugly, she cried and said she never wanted to sew again.
But Gail continued to spend time with the elders and help them with simple tasks like tracing patterns. She really started to take arts and crafts seriously at the age of 18 when she was pregnant with her first child and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time sewing clothing for her unborn baby.
In 2001, Gail-Ann took a jewelry-making course at Aurora College and in 2003 she took a Traditional Arts course at the college as well. After that making art became a way of life and her primary source of income. Today, Gail-Ann embroiders, beads, sews with northern fur and makes traditional clothing. She started teaching sewing about six years ago and is passionate about passing her knowledge on.
A special thank you goes out to Gail's mentor, Jessie Colton in Inuvik, for always supporting and encouraging her with her arts & crafts and traditional stories throughout the years.