ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios

There is a space tucked away into a condo building on Centre Ave, that hides beneath the noise and buzz of the city that surrounds it. Bricks frame the entrance, and glass windows, sitting next to a large construction site that never seems to end. However, once you open those doors, you enter a calm retreat - the Textile Museum of Canada, not known by many, but loved deeply by the ones who have visited. 

As I continue my expansion into textiles, the museum has been a great source of knowledge for my practice. Their library, artist talks, and of course, exhibitions have opened my eyes to the limitlessness of the textile medium. Currently, they have two shows on displayᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios, and Wild. Both these exhibitions deserve a blog, so today we will be focusing on ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and in the following weeks, I will share my findings of Wild with you - but for now, let’s dive in. 

ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios is a show that invites the public to discover a little-known story told by a group of Inuit artists and printmakers in Kinngait, Nunavut. The small town of Kinngait is on Dorset Island, situated within a region that has been inhabited for over 2000 years, first by the Tuniit or Dorset people and then by the Inuit. In the Inuit language, Kinngait refers to the geography of the land meaning “mountain,” however, the land has also been called Sikusilaq, which means “where there is no ice.” 

 In the 1950s, the Canadian government was encouraging the production of decorative items as a way to increase economic development in the north. This development led to Sanaunguabik (“the place where things are made”) being opened in Kinngait in 1956. It was run by James Houston and his wife Alma, who travelled north as part of the Canadian Handicrafters Guild in 1949. They created a space that supported diverse craft practices, from stone carving to sewing and to eventually printmaking in 1957. 

 The artists were encouraged to sell their work to the Hudson Bay Company, which would then be resold to the Canadian Handicrafters Guild. Their first public sale occurred in December of 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was a success, which led to the creation of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative (WBEC) so that the artists could directly sell their work to help the development of their community by producing regular collections to be sold. 

 This textile printing venture is the main topic of the exhibition, cataloguing the early years of the WBEC, celebrating the diverse experimentation and spirit of the studio throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the generous support of both northern and southern individuals, this project was able to take shape through their willingness to share their knowledge with the curatorial team. 

There are over forty textiles, four paper prints, archival photographs, interviews, and other forms of Inuit graphic art included in the exhibition. Most of the work is printed textiles displayed as yardage. However, there are also framed prints of select patterns that highlight the versatility of these motifs. The patterns depict traditional ways of life, stories, and legends, creating a connection between the contemporary Inuit community and their resourceful ancestors. 

Currently, the Kinngait Studios have moved into the Kenojuak Cultural Centre in 2018 and are still going strong. The centre is named after Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013), who is one of the community’s most esteemed artists, best known for her Enchanted Owl print. She also one of the artists included within this exhibition, along with work from: 

Anna Kingwatsiak (1911–1971)

Anirnik Oshuitoq (1902–1983)

Eegyvudluk Pootoogook (1931–2000)

Innukjuakju Pudlat (1913–1972)

Ishuhungito Pootoogook (1939–)

Iyola Kingwatsiak (1933–2000)

Kananginak Pootoogook (1935–2010)

Lukta Qiatsuk (1928–2004)

Lucy Qinnuayak (1915–1982)

Mary Samuellie Pudlat (1923–2001)

Osuitok Ipeelee (1922–2005)


Parr (1893–1969)

Paunichea (1920–1968)

Pitseolak Ashoona (1904–1983)

Pudlo Pudlat (1916–1992)

Sharni Pootoogook (Sharnee) (1922–2003)

Sheouak (1923–1961)

Sorosilutu Ashoona (1941–)

Ulayu Pingwartok (1904–1978)

There are also contemporary fashion designers involved in this exhibition, whose work explores the legacy of the Kinngait Studios. Their work celebrates and explores a combination of traditional Inuit garment structure, textile techniques, and contemporary issues. The designers are Martha Kyak of InukChic, Nooks Lindell of Hinaani Design, and Tarralik Duffy of Ugly Fish.

I could not recommend this exhibition enough, so if you have not had the chance to check it out, you still have time. ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles From Kinngait Studios runs until August 30th, 2020 on the 3rd floor of the Textile Museum of Canada. The museum even offers Pay-What-You-Can admission on Wednesday evenings from 5 pm to 8 pm, so you have no excuse not to go.  

All the information used to create this blog was found in the exhibition catalogue provided by the Textile Museum of Canada, under curation from curatorial lead Roxane Shaughnessy, and project advisor Heather Igloliorte from the WBEC. All artwork and archival photographs are not my property, their rights and ownership are connected to their respectful owners in full. 

Comment below what you thought of the exhibition, or if you plan to go check it out before it closes in a few months. 

- Sarah Zanchetta

Thrift Your Yarn

Yarn is a spun thread used for textile work, such as knitting, weaving, or sewing - and you have seen it as part of your everyday life. However, when I started weaving this past year, I had no real idea of where to get it. 

Obviously, there was the option of the big box art stores like Michaels and DeSerres, but the environment felt sterile, and the long winding aisles just left me confused. Then I went down the rabbit hole of local yarn shops, and while their product was great, the prices often sent me running away. 

So I caved and went to Michaels, used one of their great coupons and bought myself some yarn. The ease of online ordering was great, especially with in-store pick-up, and the prices were reasonable for the quantity/quality I was receiving. So I was not mad at first. Then, because of what I am currently using the yarn for, I learned quickly I would want to change colour palettes a lot - however, that meant buying more yarn, which would leave me to start hoarding the yarn. I did not want to be stuck with yards of yarn that I would not visit again, and the idea of wasting the thread to expand my colour choices did not sound like the smart thing to do. 

So I started to look into thrifted yarn, and it has been a fantastic experience that I would recommend to everyone. It has allowed me to expand my colour palette, while also being a little more eco-friendly within my art practice - plus it is pretty easy to do!

If you have friends that use yarn, offer to trade some of your old spools with some of theirs. This method allows you to try new styles that you may not have bought for yourself. Plus, it opens up the conversation to let trade secret techniques or tools that they have learned in their textile practice. On the other hand, if you are like me and do not know many people who use yarn - then you need to check out Bunz. 

Bunz is a local trading app where users can post any product, and trade it for another item. For instance, I have bought coffee beans for a console table before - trust me, anything is possible with Bunz. It may be a little more time consuming since you have to search through the posts and figure out meeting times/locations. But due to Bunz’s true trade nature - it can be quite thrilling when you find some extraordinary. I have only traded on Bunz for yarn twice now, and it worth it! I was able to get my hands on some wild patterns, and even some discontinued lines. 

All I recommend is that if you are going to thrift your yarn, inspect it first! I usually store my yarn in an air-tight bag for a week to kill off any potential bugs, or if I have the time, I wash the whole spool by hand with laundry detergent and hot water. I especially suggest this if the old owner did not use the yarn for an extended period, or if you can see visible dust accumulating on the spool. 

So go out there! Avoid those stores and dive into the second-hand textile trading world. It will not only open you up to new items but also save your wallet from some severe retail pain. Also, if you are in Toronto and ever want to trade yarn, please contact me. Let’s share our treasures!

-Sarah Zanchetta

Some Artists to Get on Your Radar

The last couple of blog posts have been a few long reads, so I thought it might be a good time to change it up a bit and go back to everyone’s favourite - the infamous list blog. This week we will be jumping in and looking at some artists that I am currently obsessed with - either because of their technique, colour palette, and theme. So here we go, this is a list of the five current artists that I cannot get enough of - in no particular order.

Nicole Dyer (@steakbagel)

Nicole Dyer is an artist based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Her work explores the need for excess when we are supposed to be limiting ourselves. Dyer collects items that connect to the act of eating and sharing - focusing on those brief moments of pleasure when the food is first consumed.

Stine Leth (@stinelethdk)

Stine Leth is a knit artist based in Denmark. Her sculptural objects emerge through yarn and other various materials. Leth’s work plays with the balance and boundaries of form and colour.

Owen Marshall (@owen_marshall)

Owen Marshall is a printmaker located in Toronto, Canada. His work examines the agency and ownership of objects, along with the possible humorous elements that go along with it. 

Danny J Ferrell (@dannyjferrel)

Danny Ferrell is a painter living and working out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His portraiture explores queer culture through detailed large scale paintings.  Ferrell is known for his use of a decadent colour palette, transforming his subject matter into royalty.

Emily Jan (@emilyjan)

 Emily Jan is a Montreal-based artist and writer. Jan crafts hyper-realistic installations of flora and fauna using a combination of handmade and found objects. Her work explores the turmoil of climate change and mass extinctions in relation to being a human, still amazed by the beauty of the world. 

 Did your current obsession make it onto my list? If not, let me know, and I would love to check them out. Please show these artists some love, and hopefully, they will become part of your weekly art intake! I know they are part of mine. 

- Sarah Zanchetta

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