On my last evening in Ulukhaktok Suzie and Julia took me to the old town where they all used to live before the community needed more space. Every once and a while I'd turn my back to the wind to keep my face from freezing off. But I stuck to the plan, braved the cold and we had a tea party in a blizzard. The next morning they told me that they thought that maybe I was turning around in longing for my warm home. hehe.
This is us (less Cora and Diane) right before I left for my flight on the last day. I'm wearing my atikaluk (a-tee-ka-look), a gift Mary made me, and the quiviuk hat the ladies made me on the knitting machine. Some of the ladies in the picture are wearing the hats I made them for the awards ceremony we had had the day before. Ada (far left) was the program coordinator. She often picked me up in the mornings and took me to work on her snow mobile. Even though it was only two blocks away, I was very thankful, especially on cold windy mornings. Sometimes it was as cold as -45 with the wind chill, brrrrrr.
This picture is of me wearing a polar bear head purse in an Inuvik art store, it has the actual bear nose partially still intact. Can you believe it? This is a rare find even in the Arctic. Although I didn't see any polar bears while I was there, a grolar bear (polar grizzly hybrid) was killed the week before I arrived in Ulukhaktok. It had been going through abandoned houses and was destroying things, so it was definitely a threat to the community. Read about it here and here. Below is a pic of that very grolar bear (taxidermed), in the Ulukhaktok Community Center.
When I instructed Mable to knit 110 rows she stood up, took a firm grasp on the knitting machine carriage and went at it. Take note at how far away the machine ends up being from the table. She's the best!
It's already been three weeks since I left Ulukhaktok! Now that I'm all settled into vacation mode and I've had a chance to think about what I just did, I'm really proud of myself and so thankful to the wonderful people who made this opportunity happen for me. Also I'm missing my students badly! I gained eleven grandmas and aunts in Ulu, and it's sad to realize that I won't be seeing them again any time soon.
Above are photos of some of the products on display at the open house. I was constantly being impressed with their work ethic but was still blown away when I counted over over 50 hats on display.
I still have a few Ulu moments that I'd like to share once I get my pictures off my camera. Stay tuned. Also, here is the website I made for the program where you can see photos and details of the full fifteen week program.
The ladies weave belts...
For their first weaving project most of the ladies wove belts. Here in the arctic these belts are often used to keep a child inside ones parka by tying it around their waste. I can't count the amount of times that I've been chatting with a woman and hear a squeak coming from behind them, not realizing that their child was in their parka the entire time. It's the best way to keep their little one warm.
Below Mable wears her first handwoven belt.
The ladies had a blast learning how to machine knit and worked like machines themselves. Soon I'll show you the PILE of products they have produced. It's very impressive. My portion of the program received a large donation of quiviut yarn which is made from the fleece of the local Muskox. It is softest and warmest fleece in the world- actually! all the brown products that you see in the pics are made with quiviut.
As you can see they have already begun creating designs, like muskox and roses, using both the electronic and punch card machines. Pretty amazing!
One down, one to go
All of the ladies finished their first slipper today. We all applauded every time someone finished. The slippers are so great, I love the uniqueness of each one. It has inspired me to spin up my own yarn and knit some slippers myself.
knitting slippers with hand-spun
The ladies are on week two of knitting (that's only two weeks of knitting ever!) and they are already taking on slippers with a shaped heel. This is amazing! One of the ladies requested it last week and before I knew it everyone was agreeing - slippers it is! I was happy to comply.
It was a busy day to say the least, so I wasn't able to take pictures until after the students left. Here are everyone's slippers in progress. They are using the hand-spun that they made a few weeks back. This is their first spinning and they learned how to dye the fleece in their spinning workshop too.
A few of the ladies
Today was day three of beginner hand knitting and most of the ladies have already done stockinette, moss stitch and basket weave. I've been adapting my lesson plan based on the fact that they are such fast learners, and knitters. Many of them are already able to catch mistakes and fix them without my help. Amazing!
I've loved every minute, these ladies are a blast; we laugh a lot! I expected that I'd learn a lot from them too, but I had no clue, they are so generous! They have already begun introducing me to their language and are constantly telling stories. Today I heard about the first time the older ladies saw a muskox. Apparently muskox left the area for a couple decades and returned in the 70's, so they were literally in disbelief when people claimed to have seen them.
All the ladies have amazing skills in various media like printing, embroidery, beading and sewing, and they all make their own winter parkas. Mary's fur collar is made with wolverine fur and includes the claws! It is amazing. I'll post a picture of it at some point.
Mid day we all gathered at the window to watch the local rangers and junior rangers prepare for a 200 km trek. They meet rangers from Kuglutuk who also travel 200km to meet them half way. This journey is meant to prepare the junior rangers with outside survival skills. They are gone until the end of the week. Below are some pictures of them leaving, the group pic only shows about 1/3 of the rangers who left. Some of the people in the pic are family members saying goodbye.
So I arrived in Ulukhaktok today and man is it ever beautiful. I went for my first walk and took some photos of the the local sled dogs. They are adorable. And then there's me...being me. After I did this I realized that I should have done a series of me doing a 'happy' dance, but this works- haha. I also discovered that I'm going to need to triple my long johns since I couldn't stay out longer than 15min; it is -22 today with 76% humidity! Feels like at least -30.
I was able to drop off my suitcase of 'tools' at the arts center when I got here. Seeing all of the supplies that I ordered in one place made me so happy, as did seeing all the AMAZING hand-spun yarn that the ladies have spun since their spinning workshop a couple of weeks ago. They are obviously a talented bunch. I'll share pictures of the hand-spun next week when I begin teaching.
One of the sled dogs. So precious. He looks mean in this picture but seemed to be the friendliest of the bunch and rarely wore this scowl. I just wanted to cuddle him, but of course I didn't.
So, I'm leaving tomorrow morning for my NWT adventure!!!! Danny and I have already accepted the fact that neither of us will be getting much sleep tonight - too much excitement (and sadly he is not coming). If you're haven't been following my regular blog, links to my older posts about this particular adventure are here and here. I've decided to begin this separate workshop blog as a way to separate my art posts and my teaching ones for the sake of continuity, and what better way to begin a new blog than with a trip to the NWT to teach fibres!
Tomorrow I fly from Montreal to Calgary and then to Yellowknife where I'm staying with a dear friend Catherine from back in my Katimavik days (2002). She was my team leader in New Brunswick and we've been in touch ever since with visits here and there. Now she's in YK, so I'm excited to have a good visit with her on my overnight layover. On Saturday I go from Yellowknife to Kugluktuk and finally to Ulukhaktok, arriving at 4pm.
Above is a picture of the new arts center in Ulukhaktok where I'll be teaching. Check out the link below the picture to see Suzie and Julia, a couple of the ladies I'll be teaching.
We'll see how good I am at blogging while I'm up there. I'm not sure what kind of internet access I'll have or if I'll even be in the mood to blog. I did however just get myself a new camera for my upcoming 30th birthday, so I will have some great pictures to share when I do an update.