When I heard my moose hair tufting workshop at the Great Northern Arts Festival had been cancelled, I was heartbroken. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to during my summer in Inuvik. Within a few days, though, the workshop coordinator had tracked down a caribou hair tufter from Carmacks, YT, to take over the class.
Apparently moose hair is very wiry and difficult to work with, so the replacement teacher, Twyla Wheeler, prefers to use caribou. She also dyes the hair wild colours rather than working with the natural hair.
Tufting sounds simple enough — push a threaded needle up through the leather, then back down, to make a loop on the top-side of the leather ... stuff a half-inch bundle of hair through the loop ... then pull the thread tight and knot it to make the hairs stand on end. Then you trim the hair bundle into shape with tiny scissors. Et voilà, a tuft.
Here are the things that can go wrong: you don't pull the thread tight enough and the hair falls out; you don't make a proper knot and the hair falls out; you cut the tuft too short and the hair falls out ... OR you poke the needle through your finger; you get impatient and cut the tuft right off with the tiny scissors; you can't get the needle through the leather in the first place.
The first day, I made three tufts on my piece of leather — Twyla did the rest for me. So I went back the next day, got some one-on-one coaching and mastered the technique (sort of). Still, it took me two hours to make six tufts. If caribou is the easy version of this art form, I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for moose.
|Alison and Ninja|
Twyla was kind enough to send me home with a bag of multi-coloured caribou hair, which is still attached to the multi-coloured caribou hide. The cat attacked it.
A few days later at the arts festival, I took a class called "wet felting." The teacher, Alison McCreash of Yellowknife, NWT, assured me it was foolproof.
So, for any of you who happen to see my lovely felt creation ... just so ya know ... it is the Northern Lights. Above mountains. With trees. Feel free to ooh & ahh appropriately.
|A carver at work|