By Minal Abhange
For Chantelle Andersen sewing has been doing something different, breaking the routine and narrating the many stories behind anything she creates.
“I started sewing as a hobby, never imagined it would transform into a career,” said the graduate of CNA’s Textiles: Craft and Apparel Design program. “The opportunity to make a jacket for Canada Goose was an amazing experience, something I will cherish for a lifetime.”
Chantelle is one of the Nunatsiavut seamstresses who created a one-of-a-kind coat for the Inuit line as a part of a national campaign: Canada Goose’s Project Atigi (translated as “parkas” in Inuktitut). All donations raised by the sale of the parkas goes to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami— a national organization that advocates for the rights and interests of about 60,000 Inuit in Canada.
“I received a call from Canada Goose, they were looking for seamstresses to create custom coats,” says Chantelle. “The company provided all the material for the coat and I decided to incorporate the traditional Nunatsiavut pattern, and never expected anything that happened next. I was very fortunate and feel really honoured to get the opportunity to a part of the Project Atigi.”
She designed a white coat that was both hand- and machine-stitched, with red, white Arctic poppy flowers and leaves all bound together on a black background sewn together with an artistic red border patchwork.
“Everything about the coat I created has a story to it; I chose white material— as it is a traditional colour for a lot of Innuit women’s coats. The style is based on a traditional coat a woman would wear for a special occasion for girls’ day or going to church. The design is a simple trim going around the front and the pattern on the hood is embroidered Arctic poppy flower.”
Love of sewing
Growing up in Makkovik, Chantelle learned her way around sewing at the age of 12 to spend time with her mother, grandmother and other creative women in the family — who shared their knowledge.
“I loved sewing from a young age,” Chantelle says. “My mother taught me how to use her sewing machine and I was hooked. I started to sewing my own Halloween costumes.”
To further develop her love for sewing into a prospective career, she pursued the Textiles: Craft and Apparel Design program at CNA, and honed her skills with a focus on weaving and surface embellishment.
“I was very nervous of the idea of moving away from home (Makkovik) to St. John’s to pursue the program at CNA. Everything I have achieved today is possible because of all the knowledge and training, I gained through the program and I consider myself extremely lucky to have made the decision to follow my dreams.”
When Chantelle sews, she does it to create something unique and special — each of her creations represent a mark of her personality and creative talent.
Her craftsmanship is a representation of her Inuit heritage, blending traditional styles with contemporary designs, such as classic amautiit, dickies (both traditional Intuit styles) with a modern twist. A lot of her work is a combination of machine embroidery, beadwork and moose or caribou hide.
“I always loved creating unique crafts and enjoy blending traditional and modern techniques, which reflects in a lot of my work.”
Chantelle’s woven wool amauti (a traditional parka coat worn by Inuit women with a pouch underneath the hood at the back of the coat to carry a baby), which is currently touring with the exhibition SakKijajuk, is featured among 14 Inuit seamstresses commission by Canada Goose to design a jacket.
“I am ready to retire,” Chantelle says. “As an artist two of my pieces of work have earned so much fame.”
Her work has been featured in three fashion shows, including the “Northern Lights” show in the Ottawa, and two exhibitions.
Chantelle also offers classes at the Makkovik Craft Centre, where she teaches what she knows, and encourages others to learn from each other and teach their own craft skills.
“I was fortunate to pick up sewing almost instantly. I want to share the knowledge I have received from my elders and honed with my experience over the years, with the youth through the classes at the Makkovik Craft Centre.”