J’net AyAyQwaYakSheelth – Nuu-chah-nulth Textile Artist, Cedar Bark Weaver, and Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the ROM
For the Winter 2017 semester with support from its Aboriginal Education Council, the School of Fashion at Ryerson University developed Aboriginal curricula for its mandatory first year course FSN 223: Fashion Concepts and Theory, instructed by Dr. Ben Barry, Associate Professor of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. A lecture was researched and delivered by Ojibway MA Candidate Riley Kucheran, and a panel event featured Angela DeMontigny, Métis Fashion Designer; Sage Paul, Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator; and J’net Ayayqwayaksheelth, Nuu-chah-nulth Textile Artist, Cedar Bark Weaver, and Indigenous Outreach and Learning Coordinator at the ROM. ‘Fashioning Reconciliation’ is a conversation about Truth & Reconciliation, Cultural Appropriation and Indigenizing the Fashion Industry.
I make it no secret that my favourite part of IDS is and always will be Studio North and Prototype. This is where you get to experience design that is less about trends and more about design thinking and process.
The other reason I love Studio North and Prototype is because it showcases Canadian design talent. Walking into boutique hotels, urban restos and condo model suites in this country one might think that the only options out there for interior designers are the unchallenged classics. The result – a predictable bore often referencing designers who are cold in the grave. Le Corbusier is long gone but his furniture and overpriced knockoffs are as ubiquitous as ghosts on Halloween. In a world still dominated by Mies and Eames it’s always refreshing to see interior designers and architects take a chance on artists and designers who are still alive and kicking.
When we get the opportunity to see interior designers incorporate more locally sourced art and design the results are far more interesting. One recent example of designers who did just that is the stunning Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver.“Skwachàys (pronounced skwatch-eyes) Lodge and Residence at 31 West Pender Street in Vancouver houses a fair trade gallery, boutique hotel and an urban Aboriginal artist residence.
Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), the facility provides 24 shelter rate apartments for Aboriginal people at risk of homelessness, and two social enterprises that support the Society’s mission and financial sustainability.
The top three floors contain 18 boutique hotel units for socially responsible travelers and Aboriginal patients travelling to Vancouver from remote areas to receive medical treatment. The hotel units have recently been transformed with the assistance of a team of artists, designers, and suppliers.”
“Internationally recognized as Canada’s favourite Boutique Art Hotel, the Gladstone uniquely blends historical Victorian architecture with contemporary luxury, downtown culture and whole lot of art, making it an iconic Toronto hub for locals and international travelers alike.
Supporting 37 artist designed hotel rooms, over 70 art exhibitions a year, 4 diverse event venue spaces and 2 restaurants, all on a strong values-based mandate, the Gladstone strives to foster an authentic experience for its guests and the local community.”
DIÈSE or “hashtag” in English “is a flower vase made from four pieces of 3mm clear acrylic and a test tube. The way the pieces are assembled will result in different shapes. No glue, no screws are necessary. Just slide the slots into each other.”
(view opening image to see how DIÈSE is configured into a hashtag)
“Part of the “NO GLUE NO SCREWS” series, TRIÈDRE is made from three pieces of laser cut acrylic and simply assembled together by sliding the slots into each other. The result is an ultra-modern and scuptural object where the content (fruits, vegetables, bread, etc) are beautifully displayed.”
Another brilliant flat packer project is the Origami Chair by Cut and Fold (Andrea Kordos & Tony Round). One of the DesignLines loves selections this chair moves like the wings of a butterfly to flap lightly into place.
“The Origami Chair is inspired by papercraft – the idea that folding simple shapes can create amazing forms. We’ve designed the chair to be simple and beautiful. The origami chair’s nest-like shape is generous and ergonomic, while the thin baltic birch shell keeps it efficient and minimal. The facets of the shell are connected with piano hinges – this give the chair some flex for added comfort. The thin shell sits on top of an elegantly folded steel frame. It’s available in different finishes including natural wood veneer, solid-colour laminates, and leather or cowhide.”
But Eugene’s first love is design and he attended OCAD U’s Industrial Design program. This year he brought “Light W8” to Prototype. An elegant idea, the light uses river rocks to displace the weight to adjust the height of the lamp. Designed for easy shipping the lamp comes apart and can be put back together will minimal effort.
GEOF RAMSAY Geof, like Eugene and Tat, has also been on Mixed Bag Mag for a feature on IDS ’12. This year’s contribution to Prototype won him the award as well as DesignLines Magazine’s DesignLines loves badge. It’s when you are up close and personal with this chair, from the Euclid Collection, that you can see the stunning joinery and the hex motif reiterated.
“Inspired by the purity of geometric form, is a three part collection of products that fit together perfectly to create unique groupings and combinations. The forms of the hexagon, triangle and rhombus are repeated throughout the entirety of each piece, shaping the legs, profiles and joinery. The Euclid Collection is crafted from solid oak and is available in a natural or black satin finish.”
It’s a great time to consider Canadian and Indigenous designers and artists. There is more than enough talent here and it can feel good to invest your dollars in the business of someone you can actually speak with – whose blood is still warm in their veins. Knoll won’t shut down if a few Urbanites forego purchasing Saarinen’s design cliche of a table for their condo but as a buyer making that kind of decision may be enough to keep the next Ray Eames in business.
Charles, or “Chinni Charlie” as he is known to his family, was born in 1839 but despite the 175 years we are removed from his physical presence on earth his spirit continues to speak through the hands of his great grandchildren.
Charles Edenshaw. Sea Bear Bracelet, late 19th century silver. McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Photo: Trevor Mills. Image courtesy The National Gallery of Canada.
The exhibit is housed in the galleries that are usually reserved for the Inuit Collection. This intimate space is well suited for the story of Charles and the family ties that are presented in the exhibit. As you read through the information provided you understand how important family was to him and how important he is today to his descendants that refer to him by the Haida word (Chinni) for grandfather.
When you turn left to enter into the first room of the exhibit you are met with a piece that spiritually roots the work. It is unlike the rest of the collection of platters, hats, walking sticks, and silver spoons that look as pristine as if they have come fresh from the artist’s hands. It is a cradleboard that Charles youngest daughter, Nora, identified as being hers and may have also been used for his other three daughters – Emily, Agnus, and Florence – who came before. It is worn down with the wear of practicality from safely securing babies to backs. Simply carved and embedded with abalone shells, it starts off an exhibit that includes work by the men who are descended through two of these women – James Hart and Robert Davidson.
Just beyond the cradleboard is a fantastic Transformation Mask by James who is also the hereditary Haida Chief. On the other wallNangkilslas: He Whose Voice is Obeyed is the other Transformation Mask by Robert that bookends a bentwood chest attributed to their great-great-grandfather. A photograph on the wall beside Robert’s mask shows the one by their Chinni which inspired both of them as master carvers. Now too fragile to travel with the exhibition the strength of his descendants skill fills the void left by its absence.
Transformation Mask, circa 1882-1890: wood, bird feathers, animal fur, pigment, leather copper. / VANCOUVER ART GALLERY
“Chinni Charlie “wished he could leave his hands to us” meaning he wanted to leave his talent to his family. In the end he did. The ones who carry on in the family like to say that “we get it from Chinni Charlie and Nonni Isabella – it runs in the family.”
Nonni Isabella was Charles wife, known also by her Haida name Qwii.aang. A talented artist in her own right, the exhibit showcases the work that she did with Charles, her partner in life and art.
Her skill as a basket and hat weaver using spruce root can been viewedup close and personal. The exhibit includes many examples of her work woven with tedious precision. Charles would paint her pieces infusing them with more layers of meaning to teach the “Haida Way”. These beautiful objects also speak to the relationship between spouses who were creatively inspired by each other’s talent.
Charles and Isabella Edenshaw (attr.). Eagle Hat, c. 1890 spruce root, paint. Museum of Anthropology, The University of British Columbia. Photo: Trevor Mills. Image courtesy The National Gallery of Canada.
In this generation the spirit of Nonni Isabella is embodied in her great-great-granddaughter Lisa Hageman Yahgulanaas. Lisa is a talented textile artist who “weaves in the geometric style of weaving known as Yelth Koo or Raven’s Tail” embracing the complexities of the art form as her Nonni did.
Charles Edenshaw (attr.) Model Pole, c. 1890–1905. Argillite. Image provided by the National Gallery.
A cultural strand was not severed.
The night of the opening you could witness the thread of Charles’ legacy stitching the past to the present as family members from the temperate West Coast arrived to the chilly winter of Ottawa to be present and pay their respects.
When I ask artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas to tell me what is important about his Chinni’s work when viewed in acontemporary context he replies:
“my great grandfather worked in one the most important traditional styles, the tradition of innovation.”
Long before Picasso happened upon the African masks that inspired him to produce a radical new style of painting, Charles was soaking up what arrived in his world that was ‘exotic’ and foreign to him. Reading the newspapers and books that landed in his lap from faraway lands, he would cut out what interested him to hang like an inspiration board on the walls where he worked. Animals not indigenous to the terrain of Haida Gwaii, like elephants and lions, started to make appearances in his work but with an incorporation that seemed natural when viewed amongst the Haida symbols.
Not only did Charles break new ground with regards to hybridized content but he experimented with materials, like gold and silver, introduced during the Colonial expansion. He incorporated the new with the traditional materials and was able to confidently shift from wood, to metals and then on to argillite as evidenced by the wonderful platters contained in the exhibit. These platters, made of the black slate that was locally quarried yet still labourious to obtain, are transmissions of the oral traditions that still survive in these (post) post modern times.
This contemporary legacy goes beyond family to include so many carvers working today. Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin recalls how his first instructor (Louis Minard) was taught by A.P Johnson, an artist who had some point learned at the hands of Charles. You see the substantiation of Charles in Nicholas’ work. One of his recent creations is a beautifully carved piece titled Indian Children’s Bracelet, a deceptive title for what it really is – child sized handcuffs used to restrain Aboriginal children who were being separated from their families and taken off to schools. (Read more here.)
Indian Children’s Bracelet. Hand Engraved, Iron. Nicholas Galanin. 2014. Image courtesy Nicholas Galanin.
The Indigenous traditions of the Pacific West Coast, like carving and weaving, have continued to influence the international art scene and the work of Nicholas as well as Charles’ familial successors – Robert, James, Michael and Lisa – are part of collections around the world. But this is nothing new. Even in his time, Charles was recognized widely. In 1902 the ethnographer C.F. Newcombe declared Charles to be “the best carver in wood and stone now living.”
Almost two centuries of international influence! This would be remarkable for any family but the fact we are even able to experience the work is nothing short of miraculous. Charles lived through not one but two small pox epidemics that claimed almost the entire Haida population. The odds were that he should not have survived let alone gone on to thrive as a celebrated artist with an extensive family still practicing in the traditions he learned from his own elders 200 years ago.
Along with the almost complete loss of a people, the traditional ways of being were forced to go underground. The Anglican missionaries condemned the practice of tattooing the Haida clan symbols on skin so bracelets instead of bodies became the place where one could claim their identity. In 1884 the Potlatch was banned and a thriving culture almost came to a halt but was not fully annihilated. Somehow that thinning cultural strand, weakened by ‘progress’ and British expansion, was not entirely severed.The combined four hands of this couple stitched, built, and carved a new path to Sovereignty. They did this all while raising their children – 11 in all.
Today we prosper from the richness they left behind and the talent passed forward.
The Charles Edenshaw exhibit is a love letter to a grandfather, a creative collaborator and a spiritual mentor. This exhibit is a family tale that can inspire us all.
The exhibition ends Sunday May 24 at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. For exhibit hours click here.
More information on the Charles Edenshaw exhibit can be found here.
Created with graphites, crayon, watercolour, ink pen and brush, rice paper and canvas support “Papered Over” is a work Michael writes was “inspired by the winter light on clear days in Calgary Alberta will in residence at Mont Royal University.”
Work by Larissa Healey and Corey Bulpitt (great-great-grandson of Charles Edenshaw) at Sakahàn, The National Gallery of Canada. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Along with Larissa, Corey explains his process for the above work commissioned as part of last year’s Sakahàn, the National Gallery’s International Indigenous Art Exhibit.
“James Hart, great-great-grandson of Charles Edenshaw, and exhibition curator Robin Wright, discuss what makes the Charles Edenshaw exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada, so special.” View on Youtube here.
The Three Watchmen by Chief James Hart on Sussex Drive in front of The National Gallery of Canada. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Non-stop events in Ottawa as well as Cinefranco and the One of a Kind Show in Toronto signal spring is coming!
Ottawa is certainly giving Toronto a run for its money in the event department. On any given day my schedule fills up with one, plus two, then three events! I have yet to find a way to be in two places at once so when my body is Ottawa my spirit is still hovering around in Toronto and when I am in Toronto my spirit hovers here. This weekend (physically at least) it’s Ottawa for me but if you are in Toronto then check out Cinéfranco. This amazing Francophone Film Festival is now in its 17th year! Opening today, Cinéfranco’s programming runs through until next Sunday night – a full 10 days of diverse programming and the best of French cinema!
Also the One of a Kind Show is now underway and new this year is The Thunderbird Marketplace.
“The Thunderbird Marketplace features 12 Aboriginal creators chosen to showcase their unique, original designs at the 2014 One of a Kind Spring Show. Representing a diversity of Aboriginal nations, their individual work is inspired from deep cultural roots expressed in contemporary artistic forms. The 12 Creators present exceptional designs including visual art, textile, beading, corn husk work, leather work, jewellery, porcupine quill work, basketry, accessories and clothing design.”
And if you are into dance instead then Saturday night at Koerner Hall you can witness one of Flamenco’s great masters Israel Galván. I missed him in Ottawa (that 2-places-at-1-time problem!) and now I will be missing him in Toronto but it is sure to be a stunning performance.
…tomorrow it’s going to be one of those marathon event days!
EVENT #1: ¡FIESTA LATINA! ( 1:00 – 7:00 at the Library and Archives FREE)
The Canadian Film Institute’s Latin Film Festival (March 27 – April 13) is hosting a day long event at the Library & Archives (395 Wellington Street). There will be film, food, dance, and more! For the full schedule visit the Latin Film Festival Facebook Page and the CFC website.
EVENT #2: Niigaan’s Oshkadis Chineekaneech (5:30 – 8:30 at Carleton University $15)
“Niigaan means leader or future in Anishinabemowin. In keeping with that spirit, we are proud to have our next In Conversation event about young people. Oshkadis Chineekaneech means that the youth will lead/are leading. This talk show style event will have our expert guests discuss what we can do today to make sure the next generation is set up for success.”
And speaking of youth who lead, local talent, hoop dancer Theland Kicknosway will be performing. More information on the Facebook Event Page.
EVENT #3: Art Battle 111 (7:00 – 10:30 at Arts Court $15 | $10 Students)
“WHAT IS ART BATTLE? Art Battle is live competitive painting. Painters create the best work they can in 20 minutes. As they work, patrons move around the easels, closely watching the creative process. The medium is acrylic paint and the tools allowed are brushes, palette knives or any non-mechanical implements. At the end of the round, the audience votes democratically for their favourite painting and bids in silent auction to take the work home. This is Art Battle Canada’s 5th season and first full season in Ottawa.”
GuerillaLIVE 10th Anniversary (10:00 pm – Late @ Gallery 101’s New Location! $10 cover)
“To cap off the GuerllaCRAWL and mark Guerilla’s first decade (2004 to 2014), we are joining forces with Gallery 101 to launch our special 10-year print edition (co-published by CHUO 89.1 FM) and let our hair down with a night of live music, performance, and celebration.”