The Innu people from Nitassinan (Quebec and Labrador) have been making dolls for many years, with examples collected in the 1880s from Kujiuaq (Fort Chimo) in storage at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Prior to the 1950s, the Innu were migratory and everyone in the family had to carry their share of the load while traveling on the land. The children carried their dolls which held a reserve of tea. The tea dolls are sewn of plain broadcloth, the faces and hands are often smoked-tanned caribou skin with embroidered features. The body is filled with approximately two pounds of loose tea. The dolls had black yarn hair under traditional hats of coloured stroud with beaded trim and wore aprons and dresses of brightly coloured broadcloth with hand sewn moccasins. When needed the tea was removed, the dolls were re-stuffed with grass, leaves or lichen.
Emily Flowers was born in Sango Bay, Labrador. She learned to sew from her mother and grandmother when she was about five years old. Later she started painting, tufting and sculpting caribou hair. Emily explains that back then you had to make whatever you needed. Fortunately Emily has continued her artistry. Her attention to fine detail is apparent in everything she creates. Emily hopes that through her work others will come to know the culture and traditions of the Inuit people. She says “My work is all about my ancestry. I can do it and I enjoy it. It’s a way of life.”
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