Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Merry Craftmas

Last weekend, we had our annual Great Northern Arts Festival X'mas Craft Fair. I've been recovering from it ever since.
It's a huge event in this town and much of Inuvik files through the fair at some point during this weekend.
You can find everything from mammoth ivory carvings to sealskin mutluks to harpoons. There's also a smattering of commerical vendors like Avon and Pampered Chef. Amongst all the wares are also tables stacked to the ceiling with baking. I have begun the X'mas poundage gain thanks to a cinnamon bun (or 2) and an eskimo donut (or three) a day.

For many of the local artisans, it's their one chance to make some real money to see them through the holidays.  That said, they're not getting rich off of sealskin moccasins.  The amount of time and effort put into each of these items is astronomical. Cost of materials is constantly going up. Seal pelts are now going for over $200 a pelt. Moosehide is going for $1000 to $1500. Duffle (the woolen material used to line mutluks) is around $50 a metre.   For many in the communities, it's how they get by and manage to put food on the table, roof over their family's heads and pay the bills. Often, it's their sole source of income.

It kills me to watch potential buyers, usually ex-pats and visitors, haggling to knock $25 bucks off a pair of moccasins. So buddy wants a piece of the north but isn't willing to pay for what it's really worth. The $25 that a potential buyer is trying to knock off the price is a  bulk of the profit for that artisan. Any yet they wouldn't think of walking into department store and say, "Nice pair of jeans. I don't want to pay $100 for it. I'll give you $75."

grrrrr...Walmart...RANT RANT RANT...slave labour...RANT RANT... First World sense of entitlement....RANT RANT RANT...handmade does not mean cheap....RANT RANT RANT...devaluation of traditional arts...RANT RANT RANT...PHTTTTTTBBBBB

The term craft in this case does not refer to a decorative doodad that is slapped together with a glue gun by your 6 year olds at summer camp. These craftswomen and craftsmen are skilled professionals that spend a lifetime mastering their vocation. Those that do it well produce items that are not only beautiful but also functional, even life-saving. There's no room for sloppy workmanship when you're making mutluks that face arctic conditions and prolonged use. Mediocre work leads to frostbite in this case.

sample of furry fabulousness

Some of the talented mavens
 I tip my mukrat hat to these folks who keep the traditional crafts alive and are always happy to share, even with ex-pat brats like me.
I had a table to sell my handspun and hand-dyed yarns. My house has been a a cross between a kaleidoscope and a bowl of spaghetti these past few months.
'drying rack'


yarnity yarn yarn yarn

my yarnalicous table
It was a non-stop weekend from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I even made the local paper!

I live in a town where Red Heart is the status quo. Most folks around here have never heard of Malabrigio or Noro. One of my main goals for having a table is simply to offer a yarn to fiber-crafters that doesn`t squeak or feel like it`s made from recycled grocery bags. There were enough knitters and crocheters who appreciated a one-of-a-kind skein of yarn that I did brisk business through the weekend and made enough to significantly offset the costs of one of these bad boys:
Hubba hubba..drool...
This was my other main goal. I`ve been needing a new stove for awhile. The one I have now is over 20 years old and is hobbling on it`s last legs. What`s even more awesome was that I found it on sale. It`s making it`s way up here as I type!

Up here, we`re down to our last few days before we say good-bye to the sun. Bring on the Vitamin D.

Have a great weekend!

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