Alum artist Jessica Winters talks on her Canada 150 Cod Mosaic feature

The incredibly talented and multifaceted Makkovik artist Jessica Winters (Arctic 2016) was recently invited to submit a piece for The Wish 150 Mosaic created by TakingITGlobal in partnership with Fishing for Success. Her contribution (the sealskin centrepiece featured as the body of the cod) is part of a larger exhibit that will culminate with art from every province and territory by the end of the year. The Wish 150 Mosaic was unveiled at the The Rooms Art Gallery in St. John’s Newfoundland on July 12th, 2017 and also included a visit by the Canada C3 expedition. We had a chance to catch up with Jessica and learn more about her inspiration and what is on her radar in the next few months!

Tell us a bit about the The Rooms Canada 150 Cod Mosaic and how you got to be a part of the project.

The Canada 150 Cod Mosaic will be composed of art from 9 different NL youth artists who want to tell a story to the rest of the country. Each piece is inspired by a variety of different themes, such as environmental sustainability or cultural and historical conservation. I got to know about this project through a friend who had purchased some of my seal skin work, Patrick Hickey. He told me that they were hoping to get an artist who works with seal skin, so I sent in a submission and they were very pleased with my work.

Your work is beautiful! What was your inspiration behind it?

My inspiration behind my piece is Inuit lifestyle. I included some Inuit inventions, such as the kayak and snow goggles. I tried to highlight the importance of seal skin in Inuit lifestyle by including the seal skin frame which is how Inuit traditional dry and stretch seal skin. I included the Hebron church to make this piece specific to Labrador Inuit, and to remind others of a dark history which we cannot just forget about. There were many tedious hours spent making this piece, but I wanted it to be that way to remind myself and others of how patient and resilient Inuit are.

 

Tell us a bit about the process. What were some of the challenges working with sealskin the way you did?

I first drew the stencil on a piece of paper, this stencil originally included a few more aspects to it compared to the final product. I then drew the stencil onto the frame, and then traced the stencil with paper so I could use the paper to trace onto the back of the seal skin. The biggest challenge I faced was piecing all the pieces together perfectly, because some would come out smaller or bigger then needed. Everything traced onto the seal skin has to be done backwards, because you trace it on the back of the seal skin, so I made a few mistakes there as well.

Jessica Winters (Arctic 2016) with Donovan Taplin (Arctic 2010), Patrick Hicky (Antarctic / Arctic 2014) and Canada C3 expedition leader Geoff Green at The Rooms launch event July 12.

What are your thoughts on the next 150 years for Canada?

Canadians post-2017 will be more open-minded to anything and everything that is new to them. We will understand each other’s struggles, be more sympathetic, and work together towards finding solutions. We will celebrate each other’s cultures, and be concerned with conserving traditions and traditional knowledge. We will work with Indigenous people to help preserve their lifestyle by protecting the environment and take steps to reduce the effects of climate change.

It’s almost been a year since you got back from your Arctic 2016 expedition, what things have really stuck with you about the experience when you reflect?

What has stuck with me the most since my Arctic Expedition with Students on Ice has been the re-assurance. Being surrounded by other Inuit and learning from elders assured me that I am proud of being Inuit, and learning about the ecology of the Arctic strengthened by passion for ecology and conservation. Preserving and practicing Inuit culture is definitely something I want to be a part of because of the inspiration I was surrounded by on Students on Ice. Studying for exams are much easier when you have something like Students on Ice to look back on, and hopefully look forward to.

What is on your radar for the next few months?

I’m currently working in Labrador with ACTUA and Memorial University facilitating science camps for kids. I’ll get to travel home to Makkovik for a week at the end of the summer which I’m really looking forward to. On weekends, I’m working on a project for the Nunatsiavut Government. I am illustrating a children’s book based off of a story told by my grandma. In the fall, I’ll be returning to Memorial University to hopefully complete my last year of my Biology degree.

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