A few days ago I began a search for off-the-beaten-path Canadian artisans. My searching took me to several sites with heritage products – many of them produced by Aboriginal peoples using traditional methods. For those of you who may not know, Aboriginal Canadians, are comprised of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
Aboriginals have been creating art for thousands of years, long before the Canada became a Nation. Like the peoples who produced them, indigenous art traditions vary enormously amongst many diverse groups. There is much to learn about Aboriginal artisanry however the purpose of this post is to highlight some of the sites I came across and some of the beautiful handmade items that are available.
Unfortunately it is proving to be near impossible to contact the individual artisans themselves (at least via email) so I have not been able to invite individuals to join the Artisan Canada Directory. It just seems wrong to me that they are not included since they collectively, represent such a large and talented portion of Canada’s artisan community. So to address this at least in part, I am writing this post. In the sidebar you will see links to just some of the quality products I came across.
Below, there are a few sites I would like to draw your attention to in particular.
One such site is Manitobah Mukluks they are “Aboriginal-Owned, Proudly Canadian” and all their products are made by aboriginal artisans. They have created the Manitobah brand under which they partner with elders and artisans who make moccasins and mukluks the traditional way. Under their Storyboots tab you will find some beautiful handmade pieces, several are limited edition, where they identify the individual artisan who made the piece. They also seem to have some “international production” under a moccasins tab and a mukluks tab - I am not sure what that means exactly however those items are noticeably less expensive. The Storyboots initiative is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for authentic aboriginal footwear, hats and mittens.
Bill Worb Furs
This is another really interesting site - Bill Worb Furs it is an independent fur and leather company, "bringing the product of aboriginal and non-aboriginal trappers and harvesters of Northern Canada to world markets."
They have a selection of raw and dressed wild fur pelts and leathers available. They mention that Beaver castorium, senega root and rawhide for drum making are always available. They are located in Winnipeg Manitoba. In addition to all kinds of furs, leathers, shearling and sheepskin they also sell fur hats, fur rugs, mukluks and moccasins.
Briony Goddard | Mousetrap Clothiers
Briony Goddard, in Lacombe, Alberta, designs Métis-style beadwork and specialises in unique deer-skin clothing. She uses fine quality deer and elk hides accented by beautiful woolens and cottons to create carefully researched historical clothing……… "I also offer custom-made modern leather coats, vests and dresses often incorporating traditional Metis beading and embroidery design accents”
Lisa Shepherd | Metis Moccasins
Lisa is a Metis artisan who makes custom designed moccasins.
“The bottoms have a thick moose hide sole, while the rest is made of elk hide."
Lisa uses traditional Métis practices and materials. The Métis are known as “The Flower Beadwork People”, and their traditional garments are decorated with floral artwork.
Nunavik Creations based in Nunavik, in northern Quebec, has beautiful, top quality seal-skin mittens, slippers, hats, purses and more. They also sell warm parkas and other Inuk-designed clothing.
Aboriginal Art Certificate Program
Another very interesting find is the Aboriginal Art Certificate program at Portage College in Alberta.
“…..the Aboriginal Art Certificate program at Portage College provides students with the unique opportunity to study Aboriginal art and other types of mediums within a studio environment. … taught at the Lac La Biche campus, the program offers traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art forms through hands-on instruction…….by qualified instructors in Beadwork, Carving, Decorative Arts, Digtial Art, Footwear, Hide Tanning.…”
This is a short post because for one thing it is very difficult to find any information and pictures that I would be permitted to use and since it is extremely difficult to contact individual artisans to ask them, I just thought I would limit this particular post to a few of the highlights. As time goes on there will likely be more information on Artisan Canada about Aboriginal artisans, and hopefully they will also find their way onto the Artisan Canada Directory.