FPCC’s Indigenous arts grant supports weaver Tina Robinson who is expanding her weaving skills by working side by side in their weaving culture with mentor Pearl Innis.
Tina Robinson (Blackfish clan, Ginaaxangiik tribe, Lax Kw’alaams), who is Ts’msyen and currently lives on Kxeen Island (also known as Prince Rupert), first started weaving in 2016 and has been supported by FPCC since 2021. She has been working with her weaving Mentor Pearl Innis to carry on the knowledge and skill of Chilkat fibre and cedar weaving. In 2022-23, Tina received a second year of funding, from the Mentorship stream of what is now the FPCC Arts Strengthening grant, to further develop her skills through a full-time apprenticeship with Pearl Innis. We are currently accepting applications for this program until September 15th.
Tina’s path to weaving came to her in a dream, igniting a fire in her that led to learning about her history and language, and connecting with mentors.
“To find out who I am and the work I am destined to do, I could hear songs being sung in Sm̓algyax,” explains Tina. “Even though I didn’t speak Sm̓algyax at the time, I understood what they were saying.”
Yagwa speexsgas dip Pearl dis Tina “Pearl and Tina are weaving”
Tina’s mentor, Pearl Innis is a renowned Ts’msyen/Nisga’a weaver. This year, Tina and Pearl are working with cedar. This starts with the work of harvesting bark together in the forest and preparing the bark for the weaving of aprons and capes. This project started when Pearl received some old cedar bark from people that were cutting down a tree. They offered her the bark, and although that is not how they normally harvest cedar for weaving, “Pearl didn’t want to waste the cedar bark,” says Tina. So they reached out to Willie White, a Chilkat weaver who was a mentor to both of them. He gave them advice on how to work with bark received in this way, and the two women started thinking of weaving capes.
Tina and Pearl are now working with cedar, from harvesting to weaving cedar capes. When they are in full swing, they spend five days a week weaving together. Starting after breakfast when children are off to school, Tina goes to join Pearl in her home studio. To step into this room, is to “feel all of the positive energy coming from this room,” Tina describes the atmosphere of books, art pieces on the wall, cedar baskets and especially, “a full Chilkat robe, like a blanket, that Pearl has been working on for a few years… and the vibes coming from that” fill the creative space.
“I just love spending time with Pearl,” says Tina. “We’ll sit there and have traditional songs playing in the background while we’re weaving. I get lost … in a good way, and once we get going, my fingers just seem to know what to do. Like it’s something I’ve always known how to do and I’m just remembering how to do it. It’s beautiful.”
Speexsk “Weave Cedar Bark”
In 2021, when Tina was awarded her first FPCC Arts Mentorship to support full-time learning from a Mentor, she reached out to Pearl to immerse herself in Chilkat weaving. This is one of the most sought-after art forms in the world, famous for its complex technique of spinning wool with yellow cedar bark to create intricate ceremonial designs. Fringed dancing robes, potlatch bags or headpieces are finger-woven using strips of cedar bark wrapped in yarn traditionally made from mountain goat wool or dog hair and, more recently, merino wool. The only weaving technique in the world that can create a perfect circle, this prized art form is practiced by a talented group of artists, who are carrying this important artistic tradition forward.
“The calling to weave,” Tina explains, “has opened up many new doors, and I am so honoured to work with other weavers.”
Aam sga’naga dm waalm “We will take a long time”
Weaving cedar takes time – a single dancing blanket alone can take as long as a year to complete. The process requires preparation, knowledge of the materials along with skill, art and a connection to the land the materials come from.
“A lot of people don’t know how much prep work we do before we even sit down to weave,” says Tina. “Going to the land, getting to know the territory, the trees, the medicines… it’s all relevant and important to the learning and understanding of the artform.”
FPCC supports First Nations arts and artists across B.C. to strengthen the diverse artistic expressions that reflect the full scope of unique cultures and identities.
“I think FPCC is doing such a great job supporting the arts,” says Tina. “First Peoples’ is this great portal for Indigenous people to really excel in their art form... I stepped out of my comfort zone when I applied,” says Tina on the FPCC Arts Mentorship. “It felt new. Pearl said, ‘You know what? Since you’re trying new things… I’ll give it a go, too!’ I’m just super grateful for the support to do this right now, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and Pearl.”
The One-on-One Mentorship grant in FPCC’s Arts Strengthening Program supports First Nations, Métis and Inuit creatives to pursue arts education through a mentorship with an established artist. There is an additional scholarship to support learning through an accredited post-secondary institution provided by FPCC’s Individual Artists Program.
We are accepting applications for all Arts programs from eligible First Nations, Métis and Inuit music creatives residing in B.C. View each program page for more information and to register or view the online information session.
The following grants are currently available:
- Arts Infrastructure Program – Up to $75,000
- Arts Strengthening Program – Up to $50,000
- Individual Artists Program – Up to $20,000
- Music Program – Up to $30,000
Deadlines for submissions will close on September 15th, 2023. Click here to learn more about FPCC’s Arts grants and to register for an Info Session.
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Arts Program staff area available to support you with your application up until September 1. Please contact staff member listed at the bottom of each program page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All FPCC Arts grants are now accepting applications. For more info click here
View all FPCC grants currently accepting applications here.
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When possible, language recordings were shared from the public Sm’algya̱x site on FirstVoices.com using Soundcite.
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