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One of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn is the informal recycling program that takes place on the city streets. Instead of trashing unwanted items, people often place them on the stoop of their building for others to take. My natural tendencies toward being a scavenger find it impossible not to at least take a peek, especially when it comes to the books!

It was through these means that I came into possession of Needlecraft of the Baker Lake Artists 1974 Engagement Calendar.

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This calendar has served as a fantastic resource for inspiration many times in the years that I’ve had it. As imagery from native tribes all over the world take center stage among this seasons fashion trends, it seems especially relevant now.

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The artists whose work is being showcased are from an Inuit tribe located within the Canadian Arctic Circle in an area that has long since been regarded for its arts tradition.

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This detailed needlework is of importance not only for its beautiful craftsmanship, but also very much as historical documentation of the culture at that time. Through fabric, skin, beads and thread, the artists convey scenes from their day-to-day lives, in addition to fantastical depictions of the tribe’s old legends.

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As creators, we are inherently visual people who find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes it is all too easy to lose the historical context of what we see, but having more awareness of our influences and their origins can only serve to make us better at what we do and perhaps even more conscientious as consumers.

In the calendar’s brief foreword, Elizabeth Whitton writes:

“A way of life has passed for the Inuit and in a frighteningly short time these scenes and images will no longer be able to be presented, for the young have no knowledge of them and without the personal experience of those ways the representation will be hollow.”

When I first read that statement I took it to be a little depressing, but recently upon re-reading it I took it to have a more optimistic meaning. I now interpret what Whitton wrote about documentation-through-craft as it not being a dying art, but as one that is living and therefore constantly evolving with each generation.

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It makes me very eager to see what to see what we choose to tell future generations about ourselves.

More about the artists at Baker Lake can be found here.

~Kat

Kat Roberts lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she works as an artist, designer and footwear instructor. In addition to contributing to BurdaStyle’s blog, she chronicles her obsession with creative recycling at her own blog, We Can Redo It.

8 Comments

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    Jul 1, 2011, 01.43 PMby blueaubergine

    Beautiful! Thank you for this post.

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    Jul 1, 2011, 04.14 AMby runningwithscissors1

    Thanks for posting something about Canada. I love looking for inspiration, but never really think about my own country. ALthough it is not necessarily my “backyard”, it is something that should not be overlooked.

    Thanks so much! The designs are beautiful.

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    Jun 30, 2011, 11.52 AMby cooi

    Beautiful.

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    Jun 30, 2011, 02.49 AMby Whitehaus

    Thanks you guys for your enthusiasm! I’m so inspired by this and am thrilled that I could share it here.

    sewster55, I really appreciate your chiming in with the clarification and additional information. All important things to know.

  • Missing

    Jun 30, 2011, 12.27 AMby sewster55

    I lived in an Inuit community & just to clarify for those who don’t know Inuit is the proper name for what is called Eskimo in the United States. This is considered a racist term & is largely not used in Canada but is commonly used in the US. The Inuit also do not have tribes. The artists from this particular region are well known.

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Jun 30, 2011, 01.39 PMby varenoea

      Copied from wikipedia: "In Alaska, the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat (who technically are Inuit). No universal term other than Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, exists for the Inuit and Yupik peoples.6
      In Canada and Greenland, the Natives prefer the word Inuit. As they consider “Eskimo” pejorative, it has fallen out of favour.78 In Canada, the Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognised the Inuit as a distinctive group of Canadian aboriginals, who are neither First Nations nor Métis.9" So it’s really a lot more complex than you’re saying above.

      Remains the question: is this text about “inuit” sensu strictu, or about “eskimos”, and the author only used the term “inuit” the way the Canadians do?

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    Jun 29, 2011, 07.12 PMby denise2003

    Gorgeous. Thank you for putting this up for all to see!

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    Jun 29, 2011, 06.36 PMby daughterfish

    WowWowWow! these are amazing!

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