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Lillian Sinclair

South Slave
Fort Resolution
(867) 394-5909
PO Box 101
Fort Resolution, NT X0E 0M0

Artist Story

I can make anything with a sewing needle. I produce a wide range of traditional crafts, like moccasins, purses, rifle holders, as well as traditional garments and accessories. I also love to embellish them with embroidery and beadwork. I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandmother did a lot of sewing, as did my stepmother. Because of all the teachers that surrounded me while I was growing up, I learned how to draw, bead and sew at an early age.

I watched my grandmother cut out patterns for people and watched my stepmother make patterns for the Tlicho region and for Yellowknife. They were both talented, so I would bring my half finished projects to them to get their advice on how to fix my mistakes. They always said: “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” I learned the hard way, but to me that also meant that I learned the right way.

I was raised without a father and a mother. I’ve had to forgive a lot of things that happened in my life. Sewing gave me the time to think of my past, and helped me set aside a lot of things that weren't to my liking. It helped me understand that things happen in life that is beyond your control. You can only take care of yourself. Every stitch helps me to heal. I love every part of what I do: designing, putting it together, and seeing the finished project. That’s why I find so much joy in seeing the excitement in someone when they look at my finished artwork.

I like to encourage our youth today to create like I did growing up. I was born in the 1940s, where you made use of everything you had. Today you go to the store, and everything is disposable, which is why I like to encourage sewing. What will happen if we don’t always have access to disposable diapers or clothes you buy at the store? It’s good for everyone – and especially youth – to learn how to sew a button or how to make something old look new.

As for myself, I love spending time sewing. Rather than sitting on the couch, twiddling my thumb and thinking what a boring day it is, I can pick up my needle and put anything together. I like using stroud of different colours. It’s easy, it’s flexible, and it’s soft material to work with. But I can also use canvas or leather of any kind; I like to use any material I can get my hands on.

I usually create my artwork in my home. There are times when I’m asked to go to the camp to instruct or work on some cultural project with the youth. I sometimes go to the schools to help cut out patterns for moccasin slippers. The young people that do artwork today do beautiful work. I always praise them. I want to keep encouraging them to pick up traditional arts.

Artist Bio: 

Lillian creates her art at home in Fort Resolution. As a residential school survivor, she finds therapy in her work. She sees every stitch as an opportunity to heal. Lillian’s greatest inspiration is youth, for both their innovative designs and the desire to see her traditional craft inspire and pass on to the next generation.  Her designs and colour choices are influenced by several cultures, including the Dene in her hometown of Fort Resolution, the southern Cree with whom she lived for several years, and relatives in the Tlicho region. Lilian has also passed on some of her skills to her daughters, who can draw and bead.

Last Updated: January 8, 2019

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