Everyone who visits the Canadian Canoe Museum has their own favourite canoe, display or absolutely everything left them speechless and unable to choose just one. The Museum is full of hidden gems or as I like to call them nooks and crannies
I had the great opportunity to spend many a morning and afternoon exploring the galleries during my time here at the Museum. I have to say there isn’t much that doesn’t perk my interest, but there is one spot in particular that holds many a fond memory.
It isn’t the awing 11.99m long Nuu Chah Nulth whaling canoe, the New France Workshop, the North Canoe loaded to the gunwales or even the Voyageur Encampment (all of which are definite highlights).
There is a place were you are surrounded by fine handwork, voyageur music, a comfy seat and the chance to interact with guests as they walk through. I could be talking about one of our many interactive areas, but the Artisan Gallery is held dear to my heart.
Many an afternoon, last summer, I had the opportunity to learn the story and importance of the Hudson Bay Blanket from one of the Museum’s loved volunteers, Ipie. I not only learned how the blanket became such a prominent trading commodity, but how it was used in the daily lives of native peoples and voyageurs. She taught me much about the history, and I was humbled every time we chatted with guests by her enthusiasm. I was also fortunate enough to be under her thumb to design and make my own pair of Hudson’s Bay mittens. I will say, cutting out the pattern was terrifying!! I was the first to use the particular blanket and didn’t want to waste an inch! But Ipie calmly walked me through it with much patience.
I encourage all museum-goers to not pass by the Artisan Gallery thinking its just another display. It’s an interactive exhibit! Dress up in a capote (Hudson’s Bay Coat), mukluk liners and mittens. Pretend your lighting a fire, or the winds are changing and see just how versatile these traditional designs are.
You can not only try on our homemade garments, but try your own hand! There are guidebooks on finger weaving to create a traditional voyageur sash and if your willing sit down and try weaving a pair of snow shoes…I cannot count how many times during the summer I attempted to lace a snowshoe frame. If you are up for a challenge have at it! Or maybe it isn’t so hard after all and my knobby fingers just can’t do it (that’s probably most likely!).
Now if you have fallen in love with artisan works (how could you not!), down in the gift shop we have a few creations for sale. There are a variety of mukluk liners, mittens and even a pull over jacket for you to choose from.
It is always lovely to own something of homemade quality, but sometimes its nice to know it was by your own hand. That’s why we have kits as well as the finished product.
Due to Ipie’s wonderful tutelage and the inviting atmosphere of the Artisan Gallery I was able to practice the time honoured tradition of sewing, learn Canadian history from an interesting angle and instil my new found knowledge to eager guests.
I even held my own time slot in the Artisan Gallery last fall. Though I don’t get up to my favourite little nook as often as I would like it will always hold many a dear memory.
What’s your favourite nook and cranny?