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Sarah Erasmus

North Slave
Primary Art Type: 
(867) 444-0307
4602 50th Ave
P.O. Box 2102
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2P6

Artist Story

My artwork can be described as digital adaptions of my surroundings. I’ve always loved graphic t-shirts and hoodies and I wanted to explore the idea of printing my own designs on clothing. I found that there was kind of missing niche in Yellowknife in the style I was envisioning, which is essentially why I started Erasmus Apparel. Through my designs, I wanted to represent Yellowknife, as well as who I am as an Indigenous person living in the North.

Graphic design first caught my eye when I was in film school in Vancouver.  We did one module on graphic design and I fell in love with it. I enrolled in art school and received my diploma in Digital Graphic Communications from SAIT. Growing up, I always liked to draw or paint. My Uncle went to school for fine arts and he was always around, painting or making jewelry. My Granny was also a talented seamstress and beadworker. She use to make traditional clothing for many people around the north and she especially loved to make clothing for her family near and far. Because of their strong influence, I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to be an artist.

Erasmus Apparel started in the summer of 2010. We started small, by selling our collection at Aboriginal Day and Folk on the Rocks. In 2011, we opened up shop in Yellowknife, where we’ve been operating ever since. To say that running a business all these years has been easy would be a lie, but when you put all your eggs in one basket, you have to see it through! It’s been an interesting ride and I honestly don’t know what else I would want to be doing.

In 2014, Erasmus Apparel was asked to be a part of a fashion show in Ottawa. I wanted to rise to the occasion by creating pieces that would illustrate what it means to be an Indigenous person from the North. I immediately thought about my Granny’s beadwork. I don’t know how to bead very well(but I am working on it) so I thought I could create beadwork the best way I know how: through graphic design. I drew a digital rendition of a beaded flower and I printed that design on clothing, which turned out to be very popular.  We also created digital versions of Granny Hankies, inspired by my own Granny’s beadwork.

Creating the Granny Line was an interesting process. There was a lot of back and forth about how we wanted to do this. My Granny passed away a long time ago, and I wasn’t able to learn from the master herself. But her work is my inspiration. She created beautiful art to be shared, to be admired. I knew that if she was still here, she would be showing me, teaching me and encouraging me to be creative in the same way that she was. So I wrote a letter to my Granny explaining that even though I couldn’t learn to bead with her, that this was the best way for me to be a part of that important tradition.

Creating is really relaxing to me. Whenever I need a break from paper work, I take an hour or two to be creative. Sometimes, nothing comes out of it. Sometimes I work on ongoing projects. But in every way, it’s a nice escape. Thinking about next steps, I know that I am now ready to embrace other mediums as well as clothing. 11 years into the business I want to take on new challenges, explore other mediums, embrace trying new things. It’s exciting and scary, but I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a fresh new decade of being an artist!

Artist Bio: 

Sarah grew up in Ndilo, where she still resides. Following her dream to go to school to become a filmmaker, Sarah unexpectedly stumbled on her passion for graphic design.  She loves to see her artwork come alive on clothing and sharing that love with people around the North. Erasmus Apparel continues to offer their unique collection of clothing, as well as signage, mugs, and other fun objects and souvenirs. After reaching her initial goal of celebrating 10 years in business in 2020, Sarah plans to keep branching out creatively through new mediums and projects.

Last Updated: March 10, 2021

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