Saturday, August 11, 2007

West Vancouver Museum finds itself in the North Shore News

Traditional Designs

Diana Szpotowicz, North Shore News
Published: Friday, August 10, 2007

WHEN creating her clothing, Tracy Williams doesn't use typical materials such as cotton, Lycra, or nylon.

Instead, she uses cedar bark and duck down to create traditional First Nations pieces.

Sesemiya (her First Nations name) is part of the Squamish Nation and thinks it's important to create traditional clothing so that those skills can be passed on to future generations. She has also practised basket weaving for about 11 years.

"Some of the clothing I create is made out of cedar bark," explains Williams. "You have to gather it in the springtime and then let it dry for about a year, and that gets all of the water and moisture out. Then once you've dried it for a year, you have to take the time to pound it to make it soft and pliable and then you can weave it together."

One of the pieces that Williams has made is a traditional cape with duck down, wool and cedar all woven together. The cape also has an accompanying woven headband adorned with white wool, and a belt made out of yellow cedar that is twisted together to make a strong rope, with shells hanging down for decoration. Williams says that so far she has made one cape.

"It's a lot of work," she says. "It takes probably about 30 hours just to pound the cedar bark. It's not something that you would make a hundred of. I've made other types of cedar bark capes with a beaver pelt. It keeps you warm and is soft and adds to the cape itself."

Williams says she likes to work with mostly traditional types of materials. "That's why we're using the duck down and the beaver pelt. I find there's a lot of power and strength in those materials."

Williams also creates traditional hats for both men and women such as a rounded one that is classically Coast Salish. She also finds creative ways to incorporate new designs such as a star design from one of her grandmother's baskets.

"A lot of times I'll use a lot of different materials," she explains, "maybe red cedar, maybe yellow cedar, bear grass, dyed colours. A lot of times I'll adorn it with eagle feathers or a little bit of leather."

Williams says her hats are perfect for dancing, for ceremonial purposes, and are used for spiritual protection. Williams has taken lessons from many teachers and in turn teaches her own children her skills. She takes them to gather the cedar with her "so the kids will grow up with it, knowing it all their lives," she says.

Williams will give a cedar bark weaving demonstration on Sunday, Aug. 12, at the West Vancouver Museum, from 3 to 5 p.m., as part of the Harmony Arts Festival.

"I'm really looking forward to having an opportunity to share with all sorts of people who are interested in basketry, in weaving, in traditional materials, in our traditional Squamish culture," she says.
Image above courtesy of North Shore News.


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