By Rick Garrick
FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION—A variety of historical necklaces created by Wiikwemkoong’s Teresa Trudeau were among the arts and crafts on sale at Chapman’s Gas Bar Christmas Craft Sale in Fort William.
“These are historical corn necklaces, and this one here with the leather included with the beads, those used to be made 50 years ago and sold by the dozen,” Trudeau says. “We used to make canoes, little wigwams out of birch bark. We would only get $1 per canoe.”
Trudeau adds that she likes to use copper, silver, turquoise and coral in her arts and crafts.
“I like making old stuff that is reflective of the past,” Trudeau says, noting that she likes to share the history of her arts and crafts when she is selling them. “When I sell a piece, it includes a story and it includes our history. So whoever buys it, they are wearing a piece of our history, a piece reflective of our culture.”
The Craft Sale, which was held Dec. 9-10 at Chapman’s Gas Bar, was organized by artists Christian Chapman and Jean Marshall.
“We’ve been getting a pretty good reputation over the years,” Chapman says. “What we want to do is fully support artists because of all of the hard work they put into their work.”
Marshall adds that the Craft Sale is free and accessible for the artists.
“It’s an opportunity for emerging artists to connect with established artists,” Marshall says. “The idea is to focus on hand-made items. People look forward to coming every year. They want to be a part of this.”
Celina Reitberger, a Fort William citizen, says the Craft Sale has grown over the years.
“It is really booming,” Reitberger says. “The parking lot is full. Last year I got maple syrup, so I’m on the hunt for more maple syrup.”
Gail Bannon, a Fort William artist, created a variety of birch bark baskets with images of blueberries, maple leaves, strawberries, Nanabijou and Animikii Wajiw (Mt. McKay) burned into the bark.
“I collect all the materials myself and I burn images on the bark with a wood burner,” Bannon says. “I look forward to this sale every year.”
Paul Francis, a Wiikwemkoong artist, had a variety of dreamcatchers, Christmas wreaths and leatherwork for sale.
“I have lots of drums and drumsticks and various sizes of dreamcatchers,” Francis says. “We’ve been very busy — lots of people have been coming through.”
Dwayne Wabegijig, another Wiikwemkoong artist, had a variety of original acrylic unframed woodland paintings for sale.
“It’s pretty cool — there’s lots of people here,” Wabegijig says. “Once or twice a year you get to see everybody again and chat and see what everybody’s been up to and see their new work. That’s always a blast.”
Ringo Fiddler, a Sandy Lake artist, had a variety of jewelry boxes with paintings of the four directions on them for sale.
“People like to watch me do my paintings here,” Fiddler says. “I’m enjoying myself. I’m enjoying doing my artwork.”
Kevin Belmore, a Gull Bay artist, had a variety of paintings on wood as well as original paintings and signed prints for sale.
“Those are actually recycled materials,” Belmore says about the paintings on wood. “Those are hardwood doors and they were being sold at a hardware store so I bought a bunch of them and now I’ve turned them into artwork. It’s a way of recycling and reusing materials that would probably (have ended) up in landfill or in the trash somewhere. But now they’re art.”