After a holiday season disrupted the COVID-19 pandemic, Yellowknifers flocked to this weekend’s handmade holiday market in droves.
Shoppers were lined up all down the hall in front of the Explorer Hotel’s Kitamavik Room to spend an hour perusing the stalls for local crafts, art, and other goods. The market was organized by the NWT Arts Program, which supports artists of all kinds throughout the territory, and the NWT Chamber of Commerce. It ran for two days, on Nov. 20 and 21.
Although the market was able to run this year, some protocols were still in place so that more than 25 shoppers could be present at once: Ticketed guests were only allowed one hour of shopping, and had to wear masks and show proof of vaccination at the door.
Despite these measures, attendance was strong on the first day. “It’s fantastic,” says Johanna Tiemessen, who manages NWT Arts. “This is the first year we’ve done this. And we did it because a lot of other venues couldn’t hold events for artists due to capacity issues, or just venues not being able to check proof of vaccination.”
“We saw it as a gap… we did this market this year to help artists with Christmas sales.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Tiemessen says art has been in high demand this year: “Artists actually are quite busy this year. And they said that they were busy last year as well. That’s what we heard. A lot of people are buying Northern and supporting Northern instead of traveling outside of the North and shopping outside of the North. So they’re seeing the value of shopping local and supporting local.”
At a table near the entrance, Kathy Paul-Drover sold handmade crafts, including a belt made of seal seal skin and bison leather. “I don’t usually work with seal skin,” she said. However, a workshop with D’Arcy Moses, the renowned fashion designer, convinced her to take a chance.
She doesn’t hide her feelings about the results: “It’s beautiful!”
At the next table, Sue Glowach sold her own art, including a unique kind of painting that uses old maps as canvases. She says this medium allows her to recycle old materials, including many of the frames.
Other goods available at the nearly 30 stalls included Christmas ornaments, earrings, woodwork and smudging kits.
Rather than looking for anything in particular, most attendees said they were just happy to see some local art on display. “It’s just nice to see local artists being able to be out and display what they’re creating,” said Shopper Hughie Graham.
“I enjoy window shopping for local art, so that when my time in Yellowknife is over, I can take a piece of the city with me,” said another shopper, Karina Lee.