Threads of Baker Lake
Wall-hangings from Qamani’tuaq
September 3 – 26, 2020
The making of textiles has a long history among the Inuit. For generations, women in the North perfected the art of sewing and stitching, later translating their talent into both large and small scale wall-hangings. In honour of the extraordinary art form, we are pleased to present Threads of Baker Lake, an exhibition of vibrant wall-hangings from Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake) where the first Inuit sewing shop was established in 1971, nearly 50 years ago. This selection also features two works by artists from the fellow Kivalliq Region community of Arviat.
In traditional life, women became experts at stitching as Arctic survival depended on warm, adaptable clothing. Beautifully stitched skin garments were a source of pride and often decorative patterns were made by insets of lighter and darker parts of the seal or caribou skin. Techniques and designs were passed down from generation to generation. As trade increased in the later nineteenth-century, Inuit seamstresses began to replace skin with imported cloth for the inner parka. They also began to decorate with beads, coins and even spoons.
The social and economic changes which took place in the Arctic from the 1950s on resulted in many of the Inuit leaving their traditional camps and moving to permanent settlements. To help with the transition into a cash economy, art advisors travelled to many of the communities to encourage the making of arts and crafts for sale, including skin purses decorated with skin patterning.
The art of larger scale textiles developed in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), an inland settlement west of Hudson Bay, in the 1960s. Commercial materials including duffel, embroidery floss, and felt allowed for the creation of larger wall-hangings. The most common technique involved the application of felt cut-outs on duffel, which were then enlivened by fine embroidery. Some artists created abstract designs while most made references to traditional life. Today, artists in Qamani’tuaq continue on with the art form introducing new materials, colours, threads types, and subject matter into wall-hangings, imbuing textiles with a new vibrance while staying true to the original designs and techniques from the masters of the early generations.
Threads of Baker Lake includes works by Marjorie Agluvak, Victoria Angrnaaluk, Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq Qiayuq, Ruth Annaqtuusi Tulurialik, Martha Apsaq, Elizabeth Argrnagangrniq, Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq, Elizabeth Enowyak (Arviat), Joy Hallauk (Arviat), Ruth Ikinilik Tapatai, Philippa Iksiraq, Sarah Inukpuk, Naomi Ityi, Martha Qarliksak, Annie Taipanik, and Winnie Tatya.