The stories told by craft in the Northwest Territories are both the stories of tradition and culture that belong to the northern Indigenous peoples, as well as the stories of the settlers who moved here and carried their home traditions with them in the form of their crafts.
Craft is an important expression of identity and celebration of community. It tells stories about the land and stories about family. It tells stories about our domestic lives and stories about the materials it is made with. We use and wear craft so it becomes an extension of our bodies, and even vital for survival. Craft tells beautiful stories about the North, and it takes skill to create beauty.
When studying Northwest Territories craft, it is possible to trace unique family traits through successive generations – the way an experienced beader, carver, or hide tanner’s own style has been adopted into the work of younger craftspeople. Some craftspeople are purists, adhering to tradition. Others blend traditional techniques with contemporary styles, revitalizing their craft for a modern world.
This exhibit, presented by NWT Arts in partnership with the Craft Council of NWT, includes a variety of work from 20 craftspeople across the Northwest Territories. It celebrates the diversity, vibrancy and resiliency of its creators and is on display at the Alberta Craft Gallery from February 6 to May 29, 2021.
I began making jewellery in 2005 being influenced by a friend who was wearing beaded earrings. I asked her to show me how she made them and I was hooked. My materials of choice are caribou, moose, bison, muskox, Dall's sheep, mammoth ivory, some hides and all types of beads from tiny glass to large metals and stone. Read more.
As a circumpolar photographer and artisan jeweller, my personal journeys inspire the visual stories that I am compelled to share. I was born in the Northwest Territories, where I continue to live and work. The NWT is the land of my greatest fascinations. My work has a very strong connection to the arctic and sub-arctic regions of the world and often focuses on conservation while embracing traditional knowledge, history and culture. Read more.
My focus started using wild northern willow to create functional baskets and non-traditional woven forms. The wild willow experience has been expanded through the use of reed, bead, various barks, cattail and other natural embellishments to the willow, the use of white and cultivated willow with wild willow, and using different varieties and weaves to accentuate the northern varieties of willow. Read More.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been investing my time in some sort of craft. I took every single art class I could take in high school, such as fine arts, ceramics, painting and drawing. My grandmother always quilted, my mother did a lot of sewing and knitting and my father was a talented welder using his craft to make useful items around our home. Read more.
In January of 1998, I came North from Nova Scotia to take a job in Fort Smith. I did this full time for three and a half years, then started my own business as a graphic designer, which allows me time to create my own artistic creations such as jewelry, painting and anything else that might come to be. Read more.
I would describe my artwork as contemporary mixed media grounded in fibre. I enjoy working with different types of textile and natural material and have been working in various mediums since I was a teenager. When doing my Fine Arts degree, I focused on two-dimensional work, such as illustration and painting. I have been working with fibre since 2016, and I began this current body of work in 2018. Read more.
I started making jewelry in 2015 and currently create a line of handcrafted sterling silver jewelry that incorporates a real snowflake in each piece. Having grown up in a tropical climate, I had never seen snow until I was in my thirties. I always thought that to see the details in a snowflake, you had to look at it through a microscope. But when I actually saw a shimmering snowflake and all its intricate details, I was in awe. Read more.
Since a very early age I felt close to the artistic world and I knew I will pursue a creative career. Later, in high school, I decided to pursue architecture and since then, I developed my career over three decades and two continents. More than 15 years ago, I started making jewelry for family and friends. Since then, I created and sold over 2,500 pieces of diverse contemporary jewelry around the globe. Studio Silver Bliss can be found in many boutiques, galleries and private collections across Canada and overseas. Read more.
My mom taught me how to sew when I was really young. I've always had a great interest in fashion, and I would always buy as many fashion magazines as I could. I created my first piece when I was eight: I turned an old dress into a dining gown by adding faux fur, and then I modelled it for my family! From that point on, all the artists around me – especially my aunties – influenced me. Read more.
I’ve always loved being creative and dabbling with as many art forms as possible. I learned to sew at a young age. Growing up in Tuktoyaktuk, I was lucky to have an amazing home economics teacher, Lucy Cockney, who inspired us with her own designs and sewing skills. Over the years I have made mitts, uppers, slippers and parkas, but in 2017 I took a cardholder workshop that really set me on my path! Read more.
I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember. When my mom was teaching my older sister how to sew, I was eagerly awaiting my turn! I learned all the basics from her. Growing up, she would give me whatever little projects I was able to do. As the years went by, I was fortunate enough to keep learning from all the amazing seamstresses in my community. Now, I can make all types of traditional clothing but I especially love making beaded slippers. Read more.
Art is all in the eye of the beholder, as they say, and inspiration is everywhere if you really look. A lot of my own inspiration comes from family and my children, and the very first pieces I made were specifically for some of them. The art I create is done using fish scales & bones, and with my family having a long history in the fishing industry I have a lot of available materials to use. Read more.
I have always had an interest in working in the three dimensional realm, but growing up in Fort Simpson there were no carvers to influence me. I drew all the time when I was young and a friend introduced me to painting when I was twenty. I studied painting at the Victoria College of Art and had the opportunity to try sculpture. It was at that point I knew what direction I wanted to take my art. Read more.
I create traditional art because I love designing. I have been doing it since I was 9-years-old. I make art to give to my children and my grandchildren. What I give them is part of me. It is who they are too. It is in me to share. When I walk through the bush, I always see the beautiful northern roses, like the ones you see on ladies’ slippers. All the things around me create pictures in my mind too – I go home and draw them. Read more.
I do a lot of traditional artwork. My mother-in-law, Martine Kotchea, is the one who taught me a lot about making traditional artwork and I am very grateful for her knowledge. I observed and watched everything she did in order to learn. I have been working on moosehides since the early 1980’s when I was in my thirties. Read more.
I’ve always wanted my art to be unique, something special that people would refer to and say without question, “That came from the north”. I think my stained-glass snowshoe work, and the traditional drum making I do really send the message that our part of the world is very special. The uniqueness of our territory inspires me to create custom northern stained creations. Read more.
My mom taught me how to knit by showing me how to make small squares, which she eventually used to make me an afghan blanket. I kept up knitting as an adult, which led me to discover felting by accident – I thought I had enrolled in a knit-to-felt class at the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts, but it turned out to be a wet felting class! I fell in love with the medium and have been creating in this art form ever since. Read more.
I’m originally from Deline, where I grew up surrounded by many talented women who taught me how sewing can help me survive on the land. My mother and four stepsisters were always very encouraging. They were such good teachers. I used to cry cause I didn’t want to sew, but my one stepsister Jane said, “I just want to make sure she is going to be okay when she grows up.” She was so persistent! But it paid off – when I finished my first pair of uppers, she said she was relieved she didn’t have to worry about me anymore. Read more.
I design contemporary, northern indigenous adornments based on Gwich’in culture, created with land-based materials. I make these adornments with my people in mind so that by wearing my works they will feel connected to our ancestors, our land, and our culture. As recently as the latter part of the 19th Century, we were stripped of our adornments through colonization. Before this time we lived nomadically, dependent on the caribou. I use techniques that have been used for centuries in the design of clothing and tools, in a modern context. Read more.
My journey with pottery started at the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts in the year 2000. I saw an advertisement for a pottery class and decided to sign up. I fell in love with the craft and have been making pottery at the Guild’s studio ever since. I eventually became an instructor and I’ve been a board member at the Guild several times over the years. Read more.
Presented by NWT Arts in partnership with the Craft Council of NWT.