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6am be like…

I have a great weaving friend Anastasia Hobson-George, who told me that if I wanted to get my weaving completed in time for the coastal Tlingit celebration in Juneau, Alaska in early summer of 2020 that I’d have to get up early and weave for an hour before starting my day just like the late master weaver, Jennie Thlanaut. I was told that Jennie would wake up early and make tea and weave. I decided that finishing this robe is important enough to sacrifice a little sleep so since July, I’ve been waking up at 6am and weaving for two hours almost every morning (Tues-Sat). I make coffee, I often listen to a podcast with my headphones on while George, the lucky recipient of this robe sleeps nearby. 

In these bleary-eyed early morning hours, I have felt so fortunate to welcome each day with this deeply spiritual weaving practice. I feel every weaver who came before me, guiding my hands – often before I’m awake enough to do so for myself. The only lights on in the house are those illuminating my loom, flooding my workspace with light so that I can ensure the tidiest, most compact stitches. Yes, I’ve made plenty of weaving mistakes but I’m ok with that. I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for beautiful. 

This robe came into being in the summer of 2018. I spun the warp yarns by hand on my Ashford Kiwi II wheel using merino wool until that ran out and I substituted the remainder with corriedale. I included cedar bark in the warp for the strength and bug repellency (as is the tradition with Chilkat weaving) and am so grateful for the time I put into creating every one of those one thousand yards of yarn! When I dressed this loom on Canada Day, 2017, I had NO IDEA how tedious but precious each stitch would become. I estimated that when this robe is completed, I will have created somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250,000 stitches. I love the time I spend at the loom, weaving threads in and out, over and under. 

I take great care to ensure that my state of mind is a peaceful, pleasant one. If I am angry, I redirect my thoughts to a more positive state. If I’m hungry, I stop and eat. If I’m sad, I step away from the work. Whenever I’m in a state of unhappiness or any kind of negativity, I stop working and regroup. I know I must take great care to monitor my thoughts because they are being woven into the fabric of this robe which will be worn and danced by hopefully many generations of Tlingit dancers. 

I’m not an expert. To the contrary – I’m quite a beginner but an enthusiastic, committed one. I’ve documented much of this process on my Instagram feed but I think I ought to keep some of those images here as well. 

The image immediately above shows bundles of warp yarns hanging in preparation for dressing the loom in the summer of 2018. I was excited, apprehensive, and totally full of inspiration and hope. Once the loom was dressed at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Canada Day, I was on my way. I had no idea how my enthusiasm would ebb and flow but as of today, September 9, 2019, I am committed to an almost daily (save for Sundays) weaving practice that starts at 6am. I only complete 3-4 rows at best with each row taking 30 minutes to complete but I am making progress. Daily. 

It is absolutely a challenge to wake up earlier than I’d like and immediately work but I do it. This means that every day, I get to see a little bit of progress which brings me closer to my goal of completion. 

I was so lucky to spend several months at home working on the weaving. I saw diamonds emerging in the Haida Spider Web pattern which was exciting! There were still many moments when I felt as though I’d never be done. I still have those moments all the time. But they pale in comparison to the moments when my heart is racing as I watch a new pattern emerge. This robe is steeped in life experience, love, and joy. It is telling its own story through the design and stitches used but also, it tells my story as the weaver. We, the robe and I are intertwined. We are one. 

The photo of me at the loom above is from early July , 2019. I was beginning my morning weaving practice and was excited to see the fruits of my labour. I also was beginning to see how starting my day with this work was setting the rest of my day and my life to be so rich and fulfilling. 

I foresee needing to record my progress in this storytelling fashion more regularly as this piece comes to life. I have so many thoughts and ideas that emerge during this time at the loom. I gain clarity on my life’s path, my biggest dreams. I have so much to be grateful for and it all starts with my time in this chair, in this place, in front of this work. 

Thank you for being with me as I share my experience. 

V

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New Class Offerings

Always doing something new...

I love teaching. I’ve been teaching creative classes and workshops for over 15 years and love it every single time. One of my favourite parts of teaching creative skills is watching the learners, regardless of their age, grasp the concept being taught. There’s a magical exchange that occurs when a learner begins a class not knowing how something is done and the the skill or technique is taught and the information lands inside their brains in a way that ignites a fireworks display of “getting it”. Sure, every class is different. Sometimes, the information exchange is an easy one and sometimes it’s a really tough one. But even those classes or moments are extremely valuable for me as they afford me the opportunity to consider what could be done better or differently next time. 

I think if you were to ask me what age group is my favourite, I’d really be hard-pressed to do so. I’ve instructed kindergarteners all the way through to the most senior of Elders. Little ones are fearless and eager to learn. Teens often are concerned with how others perceive them and Elders, like the little ones aren’t bothered by looking silly or making mistakes. There are so many things that I learn from my classes and from the people in them. 

Since moving the shop from the tiny space into a larger one (still in Horwoods, beside Baked), we now have a bit of room to host classes. I held one embroidery class and it was a tremendous success. There have been several inquiries as to when the next one will be. There will be another ‘Not your Grandma’s Embroidery’ class held in the shop from 6-8 on Wednesday May 29. Class fee is $75 and includes instruction, fabric, hoop, embroidery floss, needle and design templates. Classes can be paid for via e-transfer (email hello@aegirsdottir.com) or in person in the shop. 

Embroidery Class
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Breaking up is hard to do

Dear Facebook, It's over.

It seems that Facebook and I are officially at an impasse. I want to use their “Shop” feature on my business page to allow sales on Instagram but their terms of use prohibits the sale of animals which, according to their review process, also includes fur. So, given that I have limited hours each day to promote and market my business, I’m choosing to redirect my time and attention to my website instead of Facebook. 


I intend to maintain regular a posting practice on Instagram until such time that their ownership by Facebook interferes with my using that platform as I’ve attempted to do with the Facebook Pages. As always, however you can still purchase any listed product on my website so I’m happy that is not changing. 


So, things for me have been somewhat quiet on Social Media over the past year. I’ve been weaning myself off of Facebook so I have time for things like reading, working, researching, and generally living my life. I’ve certainly enjoyed the results of this surprisingly large behaviour change and am now poised for another shift with the general elimination of Facebook from my business as well. 


My partner, George and I have been receiving tremendous support and attention from Canadian media and the coverage has been instrumental in helping us spread our message of reconciliation. The first story was published by Yukon News at the end of January and the number of folks who have come looking for the boutique as a result has been so heartwarming. Check the story out HERE.



The second story was a little different and deeper. We were surprised to be contacted by the UC Observer but after very thoughtful questions and lots of dialog with the journalist, we couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Read the story HERE


For us, the winter months are typically extremely busy as this is our trapping season. This year, our fur harvest began mid-December and really kicked off when George’s nephew flew up from Dawson Creek to join him on the trap line for a week. They ran traps and even put out a few in new places. The following week, the trap site now named “Dustin” produced a beautiful lynx. We wrapped up our season with many lynx and marten, one wolverine and a beaver. No wolves this time. 

Every single weekend had us returning to Whitehorse with furs to process in the following week. It was a busy time – many late, late nights. We processed all of the furs together and really found that time of working together to have huge impacts on our relationship – all positive! We really learned how to anticipate and communicate so that our processing time was as short as possible but also so that the fur was handled as respectfully as possible. 


One of the most incredible things that happened on the trap line this winter was our good fortune of harvesting a Blue Lynx. According to George’s mom, Doris (who has seen this genetic anomaly only once in her 84 years!) this variation is extremely rare and very special. When the Blue Lynx collection comes out, there’ll be MUCH fanfare!! Special indeed! 


After 8-9 weeks of non-stop work between our day-jobs and trapping, we took a much-needed vacation in the Bahamas. We enjoyed two weeks of sun (a little rain, too) and isolation on an actual deserted island. We’re now home and have hit the ground running. 


The next two weeks are full of hustling and preparation for the Vancouver Gift Expo which takes place on March 10-12. We’ll be showing the fur jewelry to over 2000 retailers looking to add new products to their shops. We’re so excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to meet everyone. 


We’re especially looking forward to educating so many consumers about the ethics of our fur harvest and how it is rooted in tradition. That it is, in fact, a healing practice. Now, I’m not going to lie, I am very aware that there may be serious fur-haters in the city and we’re prepared for them. We are hopeful that even those folks will respectfully hear our approach to fur harvesting and maybe just open their minds a little. 


So now that I’ve gotten you all caught up, I suppose I’ll go do some of that trade show prep I mentioned. Thanks for following me over here from Facebook. I hope you’ll subscribe to receive updates and comments are always welcomed. I’m grateful for every single one of you. 


See you soon! 

Vanessa

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Kinda like Beyoncé, but different.

Oh friends, what a crazy few months it’s been. I have all these ambitions. Goals. Dreams. (delusions?)

I set out to do so many amazing things and then this weird thing happens. It turns out that I’m not actually Beyoncé and no, I don’t actually have the same hours in a day as her. Or maybe I just don’t have a massive staff like her to get shit done. Anyway, while I may not be Beyoncé, I am pretty amazing at being me and that does include having more things on my to-do list than is possible to get done in the allotted time.

The last few months have been wilder than wild. I opened a store. An actual store. Then my website died. Like, it disappeared and was gone for a whole month. That was painful… but through the amazing folks at Vault Press (the most badass website backup service on the planet!), it’s back and better than ever. Store is getting slowly updated (bear with me – that’s a brutal process) and I’m reminded of my commitment to obtaining my degree. I’m still working through the first Foundations course (so very slowly) but every time there’s just a little space in my life to work on this education that I’ve busted my ass to pay for, I’m grateful and working on being gentle with myself for not being as far along as I’d like.

The holiday season is fast approaching and I’m hustling with all of my heart in my wee store – have I mentioned it’s the smallest in Whitehorse (and maybe in the whole Yukon?!). It’s a 65 square foot little piece of heaven. Almost everything on the shelves was made by my hands and let me tell you how humbling, rewarding, gratitude-inspiring that is. The impending gifting season is indicative of my distinct lack of time for things like school but I must persevere!

 

I arrive to my boutique in the morning and can’t actually believe that I’ve created this space, this opportunity for myself. I’ve had some incredible support in getting here but I built this thing. I’ve forged a path that supports my dreams and goals and sure, my delusions. I’m not pursuing opulent, wasteful wealth. Nope, I’m pursuing a sustainable career path that supports my values, my ethics, and my deep abiding love for textiles and creating beautiful things for beautiful people.

So while I may fall behind on my studies (falling behind according to an abstract assumption about linear progression and expectation – things I’m learning to adjust and adapt to), I come to them eventually and in the meantime, I’m doing meaningful work and adding beauty to the lives of many. And an unexpected element of my work is the educational component of sharing with my customers about my partner, George’s fur harvesting practices. I have learned so much throughout these past months and am so fulfilled, I’m surprised I could put as much of it into words as I’ve done here. Thank you for being part of this incredible journey. You are the reason I’ve come this far.

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Æ Web Store – It’s FIXED!

So my website’s been busted for nearly a month. Long, dull story – I’ll spare you. BUT! It’s back!! I have SO MANY new designs to upload and I can’t wait for you to see them all!! There’s a pile of new wolf fur pieces, lynx styles, marten, beaver and my favourite – the red fox. Just wait. It’s going to blow you away. And what’s even better, I’ll send your goodies to pretty much anywhere Canada Post will deliver.

Of course, if you haven’t already checked out all of the newest goodies on my Instagram, I highly suggest you do so. If you spot something there that isn’t yet listed on the website, just message me and I can pop it into the mail for ya!

OH! And the store has been the funnest thing ever. Horwoods Mall is a fun and busy little place. There’s always faces I haven’t seen in forever and almost everyone I see is just so darned happy! I hope you’ll be one of them. It is a bit tricky to find me, however. If you don’t use the Front Street entrance much, it’s easy to miss. I’m literally right beside the Passport place. I have so much to show you!!

 

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Æ – Boutique opening soon!!

I’m so excited to tell you this! I’m opening a store in the Horwood’s Mall in downtown Whitehorse next month!! I get the keys on the first and will be hustling to get the doors open so you can come see me and all of my handcrafted treasures. I’ll be selling fish leather and fur jewelry and fur accessories (coming soon!) as well as all of the various textile products (coin purses, bento bags, pouches, scarves and of course tapestries that I make in my home studio. Of course, over time, the offerings will ebb and flow but for now, that’s what you can expect. The shop is very, very wee – a closet, practically. But it’s really cute and in a very hip, vibrant mall. I’m really excited and grateful for the opportunity that this boutique represents – so much change and validation.

So, as I mentioned, I get the keys on the first but will need a little time to get it ready for you. Watch for a super cute window display and hopefully by the fourth, I’ll be open and ready to go! Also, while you’re in Horwoods, be sure to come by Baked Cafe to see my exhibition – Impressions – where you can see  a whole bunch of botanical prints that I created last summer – most of which are available for purchase. Several works are framed in embroidery hoops and ready to hang (or gift, since Christmas IS coming) and several that are just prints on fabric that can be purchased to sew your own items with! Some are embroidered and some are just beautiful, simple floral prints.

Hope to see you soon at the boutique and the exhibition!!

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Nice knowin’ ya, summer.

Wow, summer came and went in a damned hurry, didn’t it? You know as sad as I am to see summer leaving us, I’m always so inspired by this time of year. We’ve spent weeks (months?) goofing around outdoors, filling up on fresh air and vitamin D and now that it’s September, it’s time to hunker down and get back to work. Maybe even spring for some new pencils or even those smelly markers just for fun.

This summer, after an inspiring stay in Inuvik for the Great Northern Arts Festival, I returned home with more ideas than I could realistically chase. But now that some time has passed, I’ve sifted through them and settled on a few that have me delightfully busy.

You see, my lovely partner, George is a trapper and I am so honoured and proud to be buying all of his furs to use in my handcrafted jewelry and soon… accessories. A few Pop-up shops at the tail end of summer have shown me how much everyone loves our gorgeous local furs and now that both Johnson’s Crossing Lodge gift shop and Whoa Bear in Carcross (soon to have a boutique in Whitehorse!) are carrying my work, I’ll have plenty of places where folks can fine me and the furs. In the coming months, I’ll be working on larger pieces but I can’t spoil the surprise as to what they might be. You’ll just have to stick around and find out.

I am gladly doing research into furrier training so I can build on my existing skill set to do more with these glorious pelts. I can’t tell you how much I love doing this work and how grateful I am to be supported in doing it. If you’ve yet to make it to one of my Pop-ups, note they are at The Claim from 9-5 every first Tuesday of the month. I take visa/mastercard but of course, there’s always the online store.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, message me an I can probably make something especially for you.

Thank you for sharing your time with me and thank you for your ongoing support. I couldn’t be happier with being able to do this work. I am richly blessed.

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Overwhelmed and inspired

Friends, this has been such a challenging year. I have so many irons in the fire and I’m honestly going in a million directions at once. My textile degree is slowly moving forward (summer was a huge source for delay) but I’ve had an incredibly fulfilling season of travel, making, and inspiration. I attended the Great Northern Arts Festival in July in Inuvik, NWT. I was in attendance as a tapestry weaver but something told me to bring along my fish leather from Iceland. I had also brought along my jewelry making tools and findings which turned into some seriously sleepless nights and making of new jewelry that is now listed here on my website available for purchase. While at the festival, I also earned the honour of People’s Choice for Jewelry Design. This was a solid indicator that I was onto something with this jewelry.

I’ve also raided my partner’s personal stash of furs – he’s a trapper – and this has led me to make some really beautiful, simple jewelry items. I have experimented with wolf and lynx fur and have plans to explore making with fox, beaver, marten (sable), and rabbit – maybe even wolverine! Birch bark and porcupine quills have made their way into the collection as well.

I can’t quite put my finger on where all of my energy comes from but I suspect it’s how I am managing many of my life’s stresses – channelling them into creativity and productivity. If only there was a way to weave in my sleep! Oh, and speaking of weaving, can I tell you a little bit about the Ravenstail robe I’m weaving for my partner?! I spun the Chilkat warp (two ply with cedar bark spun into it) for the robe – all 1000 yards of it! And on July 1, at the Adäka Festival, I put all of that warp onto my brand new loom that the aforementioned partner literally whipped up that morning. Aside from a month of art/music festivals and travel, I have been working diligently on the robe. It is certainly slow going as the weft (horizontal weavers) are sock/fingering weight yarn ( read: skinny AF).

Keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook feeds for progress photos. I’m loving every minute that I spend making and am delighted that I am able to do so.

Just about to insert the black 3-stranded twining yarns!

 

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Getting the hang of it

So it’s been over two decades since I was a student. Yeah, I attempted to do distance education in my early twenties (with no success) and again in my thirties (again with no success) but those pursuits were not as inspiring as what I’m committed to now. I’m currently enrolled in the Foundations in Textiles course which precedes the full-on Bachelor of Arts degre in Textiles that I’m absolutely going for. I can’t wait to make time for the course work and am honestly over the moon with the process of exploring and learning.

In our course materials, we’re tasked with keeping a learning log to record our thoughts and insights, ideas and apprehensions about the process of learning. As a lifelong journaller, this absolutely lit me up. I scoured town to find a spiral bound sketchbook that I could use for my log and have spent the last few weeks getting accustomed to making habitual entries. Suffice to say I’m still working on making it habitual but it is definitely fun and as I go through my day, I’m making mental notes of which elements I want to document in my Learning Log.

(note: I will be uploading the entries to the log in my posts so that my tutor who is in the UK can view them. By all means, read them and enjoy but if they seem lame, dull, or just too damned many pages, sorry. I need to keep a digital record somewhere.)

      

So my first exercise was to make a series of marks prompted by some very exciting adjectives using a bunch of my new (yay!) art supplies. That was a fun experience. I noticed how the materials felt on the paper and in my hands. I also noted how the various media sounded and even smelled. That was an unexpected multi-sensory experience!!

      

Of course, once I’d started working, I wanted to just make marks all day but alas, adulting called and I had to pack up the fun and make dinner. So some time has passed since that exercise and I’ve attended evening talks and daytime meetings, I made a short film with friends and attended the screening. In other words, I’m DYING to get back to my assignments!

I’ve gotten more regular with my Learning Log entries and am enjoying having art supplies on hand all the time to record my ideas. In colour!

     
The best part about the sketch at the bottom of the page above is that while on a video chat with another textile artist in Hamburg, Germany, I showed him my sketch and he showed me that he’d doodled the same exact shape during our call. We immediately got excited and all fired up as artists are wont to do.

In preparation for the next assignment, I’ve created a few “paintbrushes” from materials in my stash. I will also have a look in the recycling bin to see which materials in there can be used as “quills” or “nibs” with India ink. Update to follow.

So today, I get to experiment with handmade tools and making marks with new methods. So exciting! Then an afternoon of weaving and creativity in my residency space downtown. I am seriously living the very best life. I couldn’t be happier.

Tell me what cool, challenging creative things you’re up to. I want to know ALL about it!!

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Time to get makin’

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working in this glorious space in Downtown Whitehorse. My friend, Emma Barr is an exceptional landscape painter and for the duration of her stay in Nigeria, I’m making the most of her otherwise unoccupied gallery space. I have a spot for my textile work in progress as well as a portion of wall space to display my weavings.

 

I’m treating this as a typical residency where I eat, sleep, and breathe my work. I wake up, do yoga, eat breakfast and head to the studio. I can spend eight hours in this space every day happily spinning and weaving while only barely noticing the passage of time. Yes, it’s my idea of heaven.

 

Today, I spun up two singles of merino (one single was spun with cedar bark) and plied them together for Chilkat warp for my partner, George’s Ravenstail robe that I intend to start soon. I was pretty thrilled to have this particular batch of warp turn out the way it did. I was hoping that by spinning it on the smaller whorl than usual would come closer to replicating the traditional thigh-spun warp that is normally used for Chilkat and Ravenstail weaving. Once this has rested overnight, I’ll wind it into a skein and then I’ll be taking it home and giving it a good soak to set the twist. Let’s hope that a wee bit of fulling will keep it from unravelling when I cut it for weaving!

 

And during my hours upon hours of spinning, I took my newest pair of Ginger jeans for a spin (see what I did there?!). I already have a few pairs of them and they are in heavy rotation in my very limited, mostly me-made wardrobe. I wanted a new pair that fit me just right and boy, do they ever! I used a lightweight stretch denim that I bought at Fabric.com and while my sewing machine and serger both gave me no shortage of attitude (complete with 6 broken needles!) and the whole project took several hours longer than anticipated, I’m really delighted with how they turned out. Just enough stretch that my booty looks as good at the end of the day as it does at the beginning.

And I think I finally have myself organized to begin working on my University courses. I have numerous pens, paint brushes, paints, markers, and sketch books to keep me busy for a long time to come. I will begin my Learning Log perhaps tonight or tomorrow with my coffee. I’m excited to begin recording my thoughts and discoveries as I embark on this new journey.  I hope to have a few pages to share and keep a digital record of within the next week or so, so if that sort of academic nerdery turns you on, then just hang onto your wig because shit’s about to get real!

 

Do you have any amazing/daunting/inspiring creative projects in the works? Tell me about them (Brooke, I know I can count on your participation here)

 

flourishing human

Vanessa

 

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