For Canada’s Indigenous peoples, the seal hunt is central to Indigenous culture, sharing customs, skills and values passed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, seal fur and leather (seal skin) were used to protect Inuit and other Indigenous and coastal communities from the elements. Today, artists and designers are using it as a sustainable solution for both function and fashion. On the Proudly Indigenous Crafts & Designs (PIC&D) online store, each pelt’s natural patterns and colours are celebrated and showcased in designs ranging from accessories to clothing, footwear, mukluks, home décor and more. By purchasing authentic seal products from these and other PIC&D Indigenous fashion designers and artists, you are not only not only obtaining a luxurious, unique item, but also supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs. Below, we highlight four incredible PIC&D artists and artisans; shop their wares online now! —Vita Daily
Taalrumiq: Taalrumiq is an Inuvialuk and Gwich’in artist, fashion designer, cultural educator and digital content creator. Using the same traditional materials as her ancestors and in her signature bold style she creates fine art and couture pieces true to her contemporary vision. She grew up on the shores of the arctic ocean, raised with her Inuvialuit family and community in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Northwest Territories. At birth she was gifted her maternal great-grandmother’s ancestral family name ‘Taalrumiq’ by local elders. Working with traditional Inuvialuit design elements and organic materials in combination with post fur trade era materials, she creates contemporary Inuvialuit couture accessories, garments and original Inuit fine art pieces. “The materials speak to me,” she says. “Sometimes I look at something and instantly see in my head what it will become. Other times I dream of ideas, pieces or projects, then I’ll write them down or sketch them, then work to make them a reality. My signature bold and colourful style is evident in everything I create.”
Cheryl Fennell: Cheryl Fennell’s Indigenous roots are Yellowknives Dene and Polish. She has travelled around the circumpolar world, has lived in Nunavut and currently resides in Yellowknife. Cheryl works with sealskin, which forms the basis of her inspired clothing and bag designs, home décor and art. “I am inspired by the sacred beauty of every created thing in our world. I believe it is our purpose to consciously reflect on the harmony between ourselves, nature, and the world. I draw upon natural beauty as the inspiration for my design offerings. Nature’s ‘threads’ of beauty bridge and shape how I feel, see and create,” she says, adding, “I endeavour to contribute unique creations that allow the beauty and function of the sealskin to shine.”
Bambi Amos: Bambi Amos began at a sewing class in her hometown Sachs Harbour, NT. Her favourite things to make are sealskin mitts and embroidering. She gets excited to see the outcomes, when cutting out stroud and drawing flowers for whatever embroidery project she does next. What inspires Bambi the most is making something that encompasses warmth. What she makes needs to be wearable: warmth is an important part of her culture. Bambi believes carrying on that tradition is very important. “Being Inuvialuk is definitely my biggest inspiration. I feel that strong connection to my culture when I’m sewing, and it is a constant learning experience. I love sharing my traditional art and knowledge with others. Thinking about how much they will enjoy my pieces as much as me is very heartwarming. I love that it’s a grounding practice that brings me back to my roots as an Inuvialuk woman,” she says.
April Allen: April Allen is a modern artist and designer with a small business, Stitched by April, and an online bead supply shop, Indigenous Bead Supply Canada. April is an Inuk, originally from Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, a small community located on the North Coast of Labrador. She currently resides in Labrador City, NL, where she continues to learn from her mother/auntie/relatives and strengthens her connection with her culture through beading and sewing. Her signature earrings are made with sealskin and fox fur. She incorporates caribou tracks, moose tracks, salmon skin, Uluk and inukshuks—all symbols of her culture—into her designs. For April, it is an honour to use these symbols in her artwork and share them. “The energy of my ancestors radiated through me while creating my signature earrings. I spent many hours working on the design and decided upon one that brought pride to me,” she explains. “My passion as an Inuk artist is a result of the satisfaction of appreciating the finished product. When looking at my completed work, feelings of pride, joy, and contentment washes over me.”