By Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
In an intimate ceremony at Saahlinda Naay Haida Gwaii Museum last night, weaver, Jaad Kuujus Meghann O’Brien, carefully cut a cashmere apron from the loom’s beam upon which it was woven over the past three years.
The apron was admired by over thirty people, including other weavers, carvers, knitters and painters, who marvelled at the fine warp Jaad Kuujus had shaped into the apron’s complicated figures and forms.
The garment is a replica of an old weaving that was constructed of three pieces of weaving which had been cut from one robe. On the old piece, the fragments were reassembled into an abstract and very graphic design. The design of competing lines and colours is striking and a considerable feat of technical weaving said Kerri Dick, Jaad Kuujus’ teacher and friend.
The back side may not look pretty to the non-weaver but to the practitioner, it’s where the weaver’s technique puts on a show. “It’s where other weavers look to find the magic,” said SG̲aalanglaay Gaamdamaay Vern Williams, who helped support Jaad Kuujus throughout the apron’s process. SG̲aalanglaay Gaamdamaay helped bring the apron to life through a short ceremony rattling the garment’s spirit awake.
Jaad Kuujus’ teacher and friend, Kerri Dick spoke to her student’s skill, dedication and problem-solving abilities. “She is my best student and she teaches me,” stated Dick. Dick is a lifelong weaver living in Alert Bay and the daughter of artist, Beau Dick. Dick acknowledged the head-scratching moments where technical issues would arise in the work and the concerted effort it took them to solve the problems.
Once the apron was released from the beam, Jaad Kuujus danced it before the crowd. Dick then presented Jaad Kuujus with a piece of moose hide to apply to the back-side of the apron to complete it. I’m so proud of you, she said and wrapped her in her arms to end the ceremony.
The apron was then passed from hand-to-hand and people marvelled at the fineness of the weaving and the remarkable detail in the design. “It’s so powerful!” was the general consensus as the apron moved through the room.
Jaad Kuujus said that if she took all time over three years that she wove on the project and added it up, it would take about nine months of straight weaving to complete the apron.