Master furrier Panos Panagiotidis teaches participants at a Yellowknife sealskin workshop. Megan Miskiman/Cabin Radio
A six-day workshop in Yellowknife taught NWT residents more about how they can work with sealskin to create “contemporary works for the modern market.”
Johanna Tiemessen, manager of arts programming at the NWT’s Departure of Industry, Tourism and Investment, said the course, held at Makerspace YK, was designed to help Indigenous artists “advance their traditional skills.”
The workshop involved an explainer from Tiemessen about pricing and selling finished products – a lesson that forms part of a five-week workshop series announced earlier this year. Attendees were introduced to an e-commerce platform used to sell sealskin work, Proudly Indigenous Crafts and Designs, which forms part of a partnership between the Nunavut and NWT governments.
Tiemessen said she hoped the session addressed the “delicate balance” between undercutting and overpricing and would give people confidence when they sell their work.
The majority of the workshop, led by Fur Canada master furrier Panos Panagiotidis, demonstrated different techniques used to work with sealskin.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” said workshop participant Ruth Modeste.
“I haven’t learned a lot of the different techniques that I could have learned, because I moved away from home really young.
“I didn’t have any connection to furs, or people skinning, or anything like that. So it’s been really nice to be a part of the course and be able to learn.”
Modeste says the course ignited creative ideas she hadn’t thought of before and gave her the confidence to pursue them. As an artist who typically works with smaller creations like mitts and earrings, she says she now hopes to get into parkas and large-scale work.
“I guess I just didn’t really know where to start, and now it’s like the light bulbs are going off,” she said.
Bambi Amos signed up for the workshop to enhance her traditional sewing skills. Even with 15 years’ experience, she says the workshop taught her new skills.
“I had no idea you could use a home sewing machine or an industrial sewing machine to sew fur together,” she said.
“It’s going to make what I do so much easier and I’m excited to share the knowledge I’ve learned with others.”