The theme of the Christmas Craft Fair last weekend seemed to be the teamwork among artists and their loved ones.

Nichol Pidborochynski displays a muskrat stretcher with a drawing on it by Scottie Kasook.
Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Many vendors in the packed Midnight Sun Complex were selling on behalf of the artists in their families, whether the creators had to stay home with the children, were on the land travelling, or otherwise.

Cecile Bleakney was selling her daughter Simera’s painted rocks.

“She loves to paint,” said Cecile. “I have mine outside my garden, all over my yard.”

Simera was born and raised in Inuvik but is now attending Grade 12 in Alberta. After that, she hopes to study to become an ultrasound technician.

She’s been painting rocks for a little more than a year and had some for sale at the Great Northern Arts Festival, which also runs the Christmas craft fair.

“They have to be perfect rocks,” said Cecile.

Simera picks out the smoothest and best rocks she can find, creates a pattern and then fills them in dot by dot with a paintbrush.

“She does this as her relaxation,” said Cecile. “She gets a little stressed out over school and she sits down and paints a rock. She can do two or three a night.”

On the subject of rocks, Debbie Gordon-Ruben’s husband, Stanley Ruben, appears to have found some unique petrified wood and amber outside of Paulatuk.

He had fashioned some of the amber pieces into pendants with muskox horn and ivory.

“A few years ago he found a petrified tree while he was subsistence harvesting in the Paulatuk area, where he’s from,” said Gordon-Ruben, who was selling the items on behalf of her husband.

“This summer he was doing the same thing on the land (and) he noticed a petrified tree trunk, so he stopped and he took it. He started cleaning it and looking at it and he noticed it had the petrified sap or resin around the tree, so he decided to make some jewelry and it’s beautiful.”

Gordon-Ruben said the petrified wood near Paulatuk is identifiable by the way it juts out from the ground. Axel Heiberg Island in Nunavut is also known for its petrified forests.

“He loves doing this type of carving and jewelry with all his heart,” said Gordon-Ruben. “He puts a lot of thought and work into (it). It doesn’t just take him a day. It takes him a few or sometimes months to do.”

Nichol Pidborochynski was selling some of her own products and those of her partner Scottie Kasook.

He had made coloured-pencil muskrat stretchers, plus prints and carved earrings. Pidborochynski also had some of her own jewelry for sale.

“He slices the antler and hollows them out for me, and then I do the jewelry,” she said, adding that the fair had been wonderful.

“Everybody’s been really friendly. Everybody’s looking for Christmas gifts and sometimes a little something for themselves. It’s been really nice getting to see all the people out.”

The rec centre was nearly full for the three-day fair, which also offered food products and some good prices on crafts for locals, as items at the fair are not subject to the same commission and markup as those in the annual Great Northern Arts Festival.

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