Grassy Narrows’ Brenda Kejick doesn’t just do traditional artwork, she also produces artwork on her client’s clothing.
“She asked me to do her jacket and I kind of knew what I wanted to put on her jacket — butterflies and a bear claw because her Indian name is Bear Claw,” Kejick said, pointing out the design on her friend’s jacket. “Sometimes these paintings are based on planning or dancers or visions.”
Kejick began doing art as a young child and has since followed in the footsteps of her father, who was a well-known artist in the Kenora area.
“I used to sit beside him and watch him paint,” Kejick said. “When he left, I continued.”
Kejick and many other First Nation artists from across northern Ontario presented their artwork for sale in the Sequin 4th Annual Spring Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Show, held June 5-8 at the Victoriaville Centre in Thunder Bay.
“There’s a wide variety of fine arts and crafts, a lot of beadwork and a lot of jewelry,” said John Ferris, organizer with the Aboriginal Artworks Group of Northern Ontario. “We have mostly Elders from the communities up north who stay or live here in Thunder Bay now due to health issues but are still working on their artwork.”
Webequie’s Daisy Whitehead displayed her hand-sewn moccasins and mitts during the arts and crafts show, Whitefish Bay’s Alexis Adam displayed her beaded slippers, Fort William’s Ken Wakegijig displayed his leather covered lighters, rattles and necklaces and Whitefish Bay’s Donna Jack displayed her turquoise necklaces and earrings.
“I deal mostly with semi-precious stones,” Jack said, explaining she started making jewelry about 30 years ago. “I like the colour turquoise so I tend to do a lot of work with turquoise too.”
Although the Sequin art show has been attracting more customers each year, Ferris is currently planning to hold an arts and crafts show in Toronto next year to provide the artists and crafters with another opportunity to display their work and make additional sales.
“We’re going to try to have the event at the Royal Ontario Museum,” Ferris said. “We’re seeking sponsorships for that and I think it’s going to be a successful event. It will be the first time for most of these people.”
Ferris said the group will likely travel down to Toronto by bus or aircraft, noting there will be a fee to cover travel, hotel room and a table at the show.
“We’re expecting to be there for three or four days,” Ferris said. “We’ve had some good response from Nishnawbe Aski Nation and a lot of the artists that want to come down.”
Ferris said the Toronto arts and crafts show will provide people in Toronto with an up-close look at First Nations culture from the north.
“(It will give) people down there an educational sense of our culture, our heritage and how we work with our artistic creations from generation to generation passed down to us from years ago,” Ferris said. “It’s still strong up here in the north and we want to promote it down in the Toronto area so that larger community will understand who we are, where we come from and the different styles of art as well.”
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