Inuit Art Quarterly
My grandmother, Nellie Winters, was relocated to Makkovik, Nunatsiavut, NL, from Okak Bay, NL, in 1956 by the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government. In Makkovik she raised 11 children, who eventually raised me. Within my community, but more specifically within my family, I was always surrounded by ar ts and craf ts. Even as a small child it was never something I viewed as a hobby or source of income, but more of a natural thing my family had a desire to do. Reflecting on the dif ferent forms of work I witnessed growing up, and now with a bet ter understanding of Inuit ar ts and craf ts from dif ferent regions, I have come to greatly appreciate my family’s master ful embroider y work.
Born in 1938, my grandmother—who recently received an honorar y doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland for her contributions to Inuit art and culture— had to embroider as a young girl while at tending residential school. The children would be instructed to sew inukuluit (lit tle Inuit figures) and traditional scenes on items such as tablecloths, which would then be sold to southerners. She has told me many times about how the children were instructed to sew the inukuluit in cer tain ways; for example, by put ting black borders around the figures and filling them in with a running stitch. But in the 1960s she developed her own style of embroider y, taking the medium in new directions.
Now when she sews her inukuluit, my grandmother no longer creates the black borders and has changed the style of her trees to include a thick layer of snow on top of the branches. In addition to the traditional Inuit scenes she was encouraged to make as a child, she now embroiders intricate, colourful flowers on items such as duffle mitts.
Her influence on ar ts and craf ts within Makkovik has been, in my opinion, quite substantial. Not only because she is a master at what she does, but also because she taught many people in the community. For example, in the 1980s she led a workshop for a dozen women on how to make duf fle jackets.
My mother, Blanche Winters, star ted her own practice at an early age and has spent years per fecting her embroider y.
Her own intricate flower pat terns were showcased on a line of five parkas she
produced for Canada Goose’s 2019 Project Atigi. For nearly 20 years my mother has taught traditional ar ts and craf ts techniques to children at our all-grade school, and she contributes largely to the production of ar twork in our community. She really appreciates the quality of my grandmother’s embroider y and strives to achieve the same. She puts her own ideas into her designs, but her motivation for both star ting embroider y and becoming a master comes from her mother. The flowers are definitely a commonality, but I think my grandmother really connects more to the inukuluit than my mom, perhaps because she was much more immersed in her culture as a child growing up in Okak Bay. It is their passion and appreciation for our culture that inspires me to create and I know they have had this ef fect on many others throughout Makkovik as well. Despite the hardships brought on by relocation and residential schooling, they have found positive outlets through art and craft. I know that ever yone can see just how much they both have contributed to Inuit ar t over the years, but I think people fail to see how much ar ts and craf ts have contributed to their inner selves. Ar t has always been a constant in my grandmother’s life, creating a connection to her ancestr y, as well as to future generations.
Jessica Winters is an Inuk painter, printmaker, tex tile ar tist and emerging curator from Makkovik, Nunatsiavut, NL. She got her ar tistic star t at an early age thanks to her family of accomplished craf tspeople, including grandmother Nellie Winters, a celebrated tex tile ar tist. Jessica has been heavily influenced by her studies in biology and uses her work to advocate for the preser vation of Inuit culture, values and surrounding environment. She has exhibited in group shows, including Nunatsiavut / Our Beautiful Land (2019) at The
Guild in Montreal, QC, Of Myths and Mountains (2020) and The Wish150 Newfoundland & Labrador Mosaic (2017 ), both at The Rooms in St. John’s, NL, Qautamaat | Ever y day /
ever yday (2022) at the Ar t Galler y of Guelph, ON, and TETHER (2022) at the Yukon Ar ts Centre in Whitehorse, Y T.