My purpose in writing this blog post is to share with those who are interested in my work, my present as well as my intentions for Live textiles. I will speak about what I am working on and thinking about at this time, while I am parted from my loom, garden, dyepot and proving to be most importantly, my home. I am reflecting on my time in Denendeh and I’m taking a break.
This kesik I am spending my time sewing with furs, walking, visiting, paddling, fishing, reading, learning and writing. I left my means of cloth production, that is, my loom and one of my sewing machines, behind at the fire lookout. As mentioned, I’m taking a break this winter. What is it to be (temporarily) without your meaning?(1) What can I do with my time?
Live Textiles does not follow a status quo business model. I am not focused on growth and expansion, target markets, capital, mark-up, marketing and economic imperative. I don’t necessarily care if my "time is money”. I am interested in the build up of my world, stitch-by-stitch, pick-by-pick and bead-by-bead. I am interested in building up relationships. Among other things that overlap in a layered life.
What I, as the sole Live Textiles worker, am concerned with is what it is that I can do to answer the call of my human responsibilities to myself, my relations, my community and my Nation. My life decisions revolve around how best I can embody my responsibility to my grandmothers, how I can express my gifts and how I can live in a good way in contemporary Canada. Catherine Lafferty, author of Northern Wildflower says this —
“If I had it my way, I would live the way my Grandmother did, off the grid, immersed in nature and living by our own rules, our own Indigenous laws and governance, our own ways of being.”(2)
I connect viscerally with her words. When I read this, I can see my grandmother, in her small and warm home at the far end of a terminus dirt road on the wide open Atlantic. Off the grid, without running water, with her family close and tending to the ill but also tending to gardens and animals; keeping a home and making the food and clothing for her family of 6. And so, with her and all of my ancestors in my blood, I turn my lens to the things that are deeply important and personal to me. What I do work toward is the business model of making a living. More clearly, that is, of making a life; my life as a mode of reclamation of this work I know my grandmother did. I place equal value on what I make with my hands, what physical work I do with my body, how much money I contribute to my shared bank account, how much food I can grow, gather and put up, how much comfort I can bring into my home and how much time I have to share with my lover, family and friends. Roundness of life.(3) Things and practices that make me feel like a human with purpose, like an l’nu, unquestionably hold equal agency to how well my business is doing. I am intent on building up my world with interconnected pieces that mean something to me and my family. I read Catherines words, I look to my other Indigenous role models and picture my grandmother — I have the template I need.
My life, as well as business ambitions are informed, among things, by water. The character of water — by fluidity, by an all surrounding type of support and the queerness of the world(4). At this time, I’m allowing for more space to accommodate my personal work of decolonizing; work that I’ve been engaging in on a personal level for years. My life decisions revolve around how best I can answer the calls of my responsibility to my grandmothers, how I can express my gifts and how I can live in a good way in the contemporary Canada that we didn’t necessarily want or choose. I choose as well, to put certain parts of Live textiles on hold to best support my partner, who is attending school for two years. I’m choosing to take the time to attend school myself (see Dechinta) and to plunge deeper into my culture(s) and to learn Mi’kmaq language. As a child, my parents expressed to me as much of their indigeneity as they could muster up, as much that they held in their bodies. In Western Ktaqmkuk, there is a serious lack of recognition for us Mi’kmaq — we have been told for decades that we don’t actually exist and have many of us been denied “status” from the Federal Government. My parents however, told me not to forget what I’m made of and what blood nourishes me, and for now, I find myself stumbling along, trying to remember and (re)learn. What this all means for Live Textiles and my work — well, much of the work I do is seasonal; I keep bees, forage and work in my garden during their seasons, I hunt when the time is right, I watch for fires during the fire season. Typically, I weave all year round, but for the next couple of years, weaving will be more or less seasonal too; I’ll focus on dyeing and making cloth in the summer and sewing garments and furs in the winters. In this, my technical skills will develop and the goods that I can produce will expand.
Live Textiles cloth production will slow down and will mostly go on hold until the spring but it means that it, and I, are growing large in other ways. (See here reclamation and resurgence.) The queerness, the fluidity and changeability of water is truly an inspiration to me. At times liquid, solid or gaseous. Bending and moving around anything that is in front of it. Soothing and aggressive. Hot or cold. Intensely loud or soft and quiet. Water moves and shapes the world it is in relation with. Complex, a dichotomy of character. Water has never been in a binary box and I like to think that humans and the things that humans do (see “do business”) weren’t necessarily meant to be placed in one either. (Except that someone, at some point, said we were to be identified with particular standards simply because they had to ability and self proclaimed authority to say so.)
I think that maybe business models can be fluid too. Maybe we, maybe I, as a maker, as a craftsperson and as a business person, don’t have to dive so deeply into the world of mark-up, capital and out-sourcing. Understanding intelligence from water and the inherent queerness of the real world informs not only my personal life, but my business life as well. My self and Live Textiles are not necessarily disconnected and compartmentalized. I am, we are, after all, layered peoples in layered worlds.
Can I remove the boxes that without my consent, I’ve been placed in all my life? I am/we are powerful — I carry the ability to create with, and also in, my body. As a queer l’nu, I strive to allow this energy to spill into the rest of my life; conscious bleeding of the lines between life and work and love and medicine. I think it’s true that We want for better worlds. For me, a world and life that hasn’t built its foundation in the patriarchy, in heteronormativity, in capitalism and extractivism, to name but a few. I’m interested in removing those boxes, I am continuing to build my world by decolonizing and considering those colonial boxes that have been held up for too long. I am interested in what it is that I can do in my life to address them.
All this to say that I myself, and that Live Textiles, are sort of on a break and I am exploring eddies at the moment to incorporate in the larger picture later. This is how I operate my business in a manner that makes sense to me, in a way that feels personal and intimate, in a way that is fully supportive. I determine for myself, my business explorations and operations. I practice self-determination by making sure that there is time in my life and that Live Textiles can bend and flex. I believe that the things I produce (material) and my creative practice (process) is part of a living continuum of making animate things (elu’j). In this way, I can contribute to ongoing histories and contemporary traditions.(5) I practice self-determination by fishing, by growing a garden and canning the harvest, by keeping bees, by growing and braiding my hair, by making cloth, by “working” for only 6 months of the year in a job that allows me much freedom, by hunting and putting offerings down and prayers up. My self-determination is rooted in day-to-day decisions, the small things that make up the largeness of a life.
Please keep your ear to the ground for a continuation of my fibre research. I intend to finish the series this winter. Coming next — Hemp, followed by Wool and then Silk. If you missed them, I began a fibre research series with Organic Cotton and Linen.
1 It’s true and due to colonization and the things that come with it (dispossession, de-humanization, racism, patriarchy and heteronormativity, to name a few) that to be “without your meaning” is something that some Indigenous people across Turtle Island know deeply. In this time, many of us are relearning our meaningful ways; that is — our cultures, songs, stories, practices, ways of knowing and how to come to that knowledge, the things that root us in place and connect us to one another. This is an important, difficult and complex and simultaneously, beautiful and healing process. Myself and my family are somewhere in the process.
2 Northern Wildflower, Catherine Lafferty, p144
3 I Pity the Country — Willie Dunn
4 I began thinking of the inherent queerness of the world after engaging with Leanne Betasamosake Simpsons work As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. As a queer person myself, I am aware of the fluidity of my own nature and have certainly recognized queerness in other animals. I find comfort in reading her thoughts and teachings on the queerness of all nature, that queerness is normal. I hadn’t begun to think of the queer nature of water, plant nations, air, fire and all animacy until reading As We Have Always Done and until speaking briefly with Leanne about the topic at a later time.
5 “You will mirror to one another what 2s life is, and create new histories and traditions as you do.” nîtsânak, Lindsay Nixon, p162