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Lillian Wright

Inuvik Beaufort Delta
(867) 777-3556
BOX 1326
Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0

Artist Story

In my teen years, I learned to sew by observing other women in my community, bead and do embroidery work. Alot of them did such neat work, especially my aunt. By observing, they inspired me to take pride in my work, too.

One desire that I had was to learn the art of tufting with caribou and moose hair, and also to work with porcupine quills. These skills were taught at the Inuvik college which I was enrolled in. My favourite art piece that I do is a berry bowl. This is made of birch bark sewn onto  velvet material and each berry is tuft above the basket shape birch bark. It looks llike a basket over flowing with berries.

Porcupine quill work is rarely seen today. In the 1900's, the Gwichi'in women would tan caribou hides and make clothing with  porcupine quill design. The quills were dyed from different plants. Pictures of these garments can be found in Dene books.

My inspiration comes from traditional arts.

Artist Bio: 

Lillian is a proud Gwich'in Grandmother from Fort McPherson NWT. She grew up on the land and this Mackenzie Delta landscape continues to be her main source of inspiration. After attending residential school Lillian went on to marry and raise a family. She loves to create things for her family. Tanning her own moose and caribou hides, and working to use all parts of the animal in traditional and innovative ways is important to Lillian as conservation and respect are important part of her Gwich'in culture. Lillian works in many traditional mediums and stresses the importance of using all parts of her garment and decorative work. Her mother and Auntie were her first teachers as artists themselves working with sewing and other traditional women's crafts. "My Auntie Renie always embroidered roses on her work and I admired her neatness. Everything she made was always perfect. My mom gave me embroidery work when I was in residential school. Most of the girls had their own sewing to do also. My mom sewed all our winter parkas, mitts, mukluks, and anything that was needed." Lillian also incorporates tufting into her work and has branched into using antlers. Willow baskets are also a new addition to her artistic repertoire. She is very keen to start working with drift wood to add new material to her artistic work. Lillian sees her art as not only a personal expression but also a cultural responsibility by striving to share her skills as a mentor. Future generations need to know how to effectively and respectfully use the materials from their Northern environment: "It is not only a responsibility of our legacy but also important to the preservation of the land and culture as a whole." Lillian participated in Gwich'n Traditional Garment project to recreate a historical piece of men's five piece caribou skin outfit. (web) This project included traditional Gwich'in quill work and silver beads. For Lillian art is an expression of culture. She is dedicated to continue expanding her skills and work with new natural materials. Her work is traditional but also a unique expression of her personal vision of that tradition. As a Northern artist she wants to focus on her Gwich'in heritage and the traditional environment in the Mackenzie Delta. The Canadian north is a huge region and she wants her work to highlight her regional culture. Lillian sees her art as not only beautiful but it must be practical.

Last Updated: October 6, 2015

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