Support Local Indigenous Artisans

This weekend’s Indigenous Arts & Crafts Sale provides a platform

The Neeginan Centre is located at 181 Higgins Ave.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

The 8th Annual Indigenous Arts & Crafts Sale takes place this weekend and is an opportunity for anyone looking for “a quality, handmade product that’s Indigenous-made,” Jacques St. Goddard, the sale’s head organizer, says.

“The artwork is as wide as you can think of: traditional to contemporary, wood, soapstone carvings, bone jewellery, beaded jewelry, leather goods, ribbon shirts, regalia, walking sticks, talking sticks, birchbark biting,” St. Goddard says.

“It’s quite the variety,” he says. “If you can name it, you can find an authentic product here.”

St. Goddard says the sale included about 90 artists last year, and he has been getting even more applications this year.

The sale will also include a fashion show hosted by the Aboriginal Designer’s Marketing Co-operative on Saturday.

Roxanne Shuttleworth, one of the co-operative’s board members and contributing artists, says “it’s one of the events we never miss. It’s a great event.”

The co-operative began in 2015, operating out of Neechi Commons and still operates out of the building after the Commons’ closure.

“We are still here. We’re still open,” Shuttleworth says.

The co-operative has been involved with the fashion show for five years.

“Iris Lauzon was involved (with the sale) before, and she’s another founding board member, so she’s always hosted and looked after the fashion show,” Shuttleworth says.

Shuttleworth says it’s important to have spaces where customers can support Indigenous artisans directly, because “every piece within the co-op, every article we have, we know who made it, and it’s always a member of the co-op, and we can say it’s definitely authentically Aboriginal.”

Shuttleworth says it’s important that people make sure the products that they buy are made by Indigenous people who receive profit from the sale, rather than being mass-produced offshore or onshore by non-Indigenous people.

She says one of the biggest barriers for Indigenous artisans can be a lack of funding needed to enter the market. St. Goddard says the sale offers an opportunity for artists without significant financial backing to get exposure because of the lowcost of entry.

“We charge very little for the table. I know some events I’ve been to in the past, they charge $200 for a table, and sometimes you’re lucky if you make that money back,”
St. Goddard says.

“So this way, we charge $40 for a table for an artist, whatever they make is theirs, so it kind of creates a venue where people can find the quality products and the handmade stuff, and at the same time, all the money goes to the artist.”

“We very much support artisans even if they’re not (co-op) members,” Shuttleworth says. “If we don’t have the product or we can’t make it, we definitely try to get names and contact information for people who do. We’re non-competitive that way. We’re very much supporting of all artisans and all people doing this work.”

The 8th Annual Indigenous Arts & Crafts Sale takes place on Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24 at Neeginan Centre Inc. (181 Higgins Ave.) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, search for the event on Facebook.

Published in Volume 73, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 22, 2018)

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