Julia Cockney

Beaufort Delta
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Artist Story

Until I was about 7 years old, I did a lot of nomadic traveling with my parents. My father was a trapper, so we were always following the animals – in the winter we would travel by dog sled and in the summer, we would go back to the small village of Stanton where we would stay for a few months. During that time, we would harvest, prepare dry fish and get all the food we need for the dogs in the winter. I felt so safe with my mom and dad. It was such a good life!

After I turned 7, I had to go to residential school until I was about 15 years old. It was during this time I learned to go into myself and look for what I have within. I started drawing and writing. My artwork began as a visceral need to create.

I started sewing after my kids were born because I wanted to be able to make items for them. I’m so grateful that my mom was there to help and teach me! I was 17 years old when I started working at the fur shop in Tuktoyaktuk, alongside Elders. I learned a lot from all the ladies there too. I had to take many projects apart and start over! With practice, I kept getting better and I now do embroidery and beading too.

I sew mostly because I enjoy it. I really love creating. When I complete an item, I look at it and I feel good. I draw all of my own patterns. I particularly love to make roses, especially in black and red.  I also make dolls out of sealskin. I still don’t really know where that idea came from – one day, I just decided to try something new. I made a small doll and – because I wanted to see her do a drum dance – I added some wires in its arms and legs. I must have made about 200 of those by now!

What I like the most about making art is to create something new and seeing the final product. I really love seeing my art on other people who enjoy it too. Making art connects me to my culture, to my parents, to being on the land. It also makes me feel like I can provide for myself. My artwork can support me if I ever need it: financially, but also spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I can look at my art afterwards and feel good that I did it, even if it was challenging.

Artist Bio: 

Julia was born in Stanton, a small village located about 200 miles from Tuktoyaktuk where she now lives. Many of Julia’s kids are now artists too. In the summertime, Julia is busy connecting with her traditional roots at fish camps and will prefer to sew in the winter when it is cold outside. Her creative mindset leads her to take on many artistic projects to support her family or to embellished other community member’s lives. 

Last Updated: May 18, 2023

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