Sandra (Sam) started this “art journey” not knowing how to sew or paint, or use porcupine quills to make art. She learned to sew when she was in her 30’s, and the rest has come to her since then. She’s a hands-on learner who has turned into a hands-on teacher. Sandra learned the art of making a quill box (the first quill piece she ever made) in 2010. It was a 3 day class that Sandra finished in 1 ½ days. She used the rest of the time to produce a piece of wall art because she needed a gift for a speaker who was coming to the community later that week.
Sandra asked many questions to the Instructors, and then Sam and Barry spent a few years figuring out what size trees to pick bark from, what time of year to harvest porcupine quills, how to store and dye quills, what type of dyes produced the colours she was looking for, and so on.
In Sam’s classes today, she shares all the knowledge she has about all of it. She has taken porcupines (dead) to classes so learners can have the quill-pulling and porcupine carcass smelling experiences. She and Barry have taken groups of people into the forest to harvest birch bark. Because Sandra is grounded in her cultural, none of these activities is ever done without making an offering of thanks first. Sandra has a roadkill box in her car from August until November – people from all over her geographical area call, text, email, and message her about where roadkill porcupines can be found. She even had a standoff with a County Roads guy at 5:30 one morning after her husband called her (woke her up) to tell her where a dead porcupine was located. Sandra was wearing her flannelette pajamas and won the standoff!
It’s important to Sam that learners go away from her classes with the ability to gather the items/supplies they need to produce their own art. In every class she teaches she always pays attention to who the natural teachers are, and she encourages them along to be the teachers in their own community. Sam has travelled all over southern Ontario, and as far away as the Yukon Territory, and taught learners how to make art with birch bark and porcupine quills. Sam lived in the Yukon for 15 months in 2016-17 and while she was there, she learned Caribou Hair Tufting and has since shared her knowledge with many people.
Sandra teaches lots of different classes, but primarily birch bark/quill art, caribou hair tufting, and regalia. She has a teaching space in her home where she can teach up to 14 people at a time. Also, she’ll travel to your community and teach classes there. Ideally class sizes are limited to 20 people, but she can accommodate more. Contact her, and start a discussion about what your community is looking for in terms of cultural art. Sandra will be happy to hear from you.
Sam likes to laugh, too. She tells a story about finding a porcupine quill in her underwear one time – but you’ll have to hear the rest of that one from her!! Her classes are filled with laughter and patience as she takes learners through the process of making beautiful art. Sam and Barry might come to your community as strangers, but they’ll leave as your friends.