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Hopedale sisters are crafting tradition

Vanessa Flowers displayed some of the crafts she and her sister Veronica made during an aboriginal craft fair at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook on Wednesday.
Vanessa Flowers displayed some of the crafts she and her sister Veronica made during an aboriginal craft fair at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook on Wednesday. - Diane Crocker

Two Inuit sisters from the Nunatsiavut community of Hopedale on the north coast of Labrador are doing their part to keep tradition alive.

Vanessa and Veronica Flowers make crafts from sealskin and moose hide, an art and tradition they learned from their grandmother, Andrea Flowers.

The women make everything from sealskin mitts and boots, to slippers, dolls, bracelets and earrings.

Vanessa, 22, recently completed her degree in environmental science (biology) at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook and will graduate in May.

Veronica, 18, is in the first year of the same program.

On Wednesday afternoon, while Veronica was in class, Vanessa sat at a table in the atrium of the university’s arts of science building displaying some of the items they have made at an aboriginal craft fair held as part of the university’s Indigenous Week celebrations.

Vanessa said her interest in native crafts really took hold when she was 15 and joined a sewing group in her community.

She found it to be a great pastime and recognized it was a dying tradition as not many young people are learning the skills or making the crafts.

“So I thought I’d just try to keep the tradition alive.”

With a table of goods before her, which included a doll that took her four days to make, and beautiful fox-fur trimmed sealskin mitts made by Veronica, it’s obvious the sisters are accomplishing what they set out to.

“We just really enjoy doing what we do,” she said.

And that’s something that can be said of all the Flowers women.

“She’s very proud of us and she’s still teaching us new things all the time,” said Vanessa of their 83-year-old grandmother, one of the only people in Hopedale who makes the traditional black bottom sealskin boots.

That’s something Vanessa said she still has to learn to do.

As the sisters learned and created they eventually started selling their work, taking orders from people in the community and across the province.

In 2016 a pair of slippers made by Vanessa was selected to be part of the SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut exhibition that has been displayed at The Rooms in St. John’s, in Halifax and will move on to Winnipeg in May.

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