The museum’s craft collection says a lot about the history of the province

This Sunday, we’re launching a series of inside vaults and storage rooms at some of the city’s smaller museums to understand what they collect and how they portray – and represent – Winnipeggers and Manitobans.


Curator Andrea Reichert of the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library displays artifacts in the warehouse that relate to the founding of this province. A wall tapestry made by Kitty Churchill where the bison and the word “Manitoba” are made from bison wool. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

If you need the exact shade of brown to represent a bison, it makes sense to look for materials that are close to the source.

Using bison hair collected from fences at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, weaver and craftsman Kitty Churchill created the outline of a bison in a woven adaptation of the original Manitoba coat of arms.

Measuring 49 x 72 centimeters, Campbell’s wall hanging is one of many openly Manitoba-themed pieces in the collection of the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library, located in the C2 Center for Craft at 329 Cumberland Avenue.

Mandated to collect and preserve the works of artisans and craftsmen in the province, the museum’s collection also evokes stories like that of Churchill plucking buffalo hair in the zoo’s bison enclosure in 1942, says curator Andrea Reichert.

“The collections of the museum as a whole are the memory of a material culture,” she says of the 10,000 artefacts, collected over the past century.

Le C2 Centre for Craft sur l'avenue Cumberland abrite de nombreux délices culturels ancrés dans l'histoire du Manitoba.  (Dossiers de Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press) </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>The C2 Center for Craft on Cumberland Avenue is home to many cultural delights steeped in Manitoba history.  (Files by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>
<p>“Having these real tangible pieces made by this community gives a window into what the community was.”			</p>
<p>In honor of Manitoba Day on May 12, Reichert collected some of the uniquely Manitoba artifacts just to <em>Free press</em> readers.			</p>
<p>Some came from the depths of the museum’s 450-square-foot vault, fitted with rolling shelves to maximize storage capacity, and a few were on display in a recent Handmade in Manitoba exhibit, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the province, which took place last week after six months in the gallery.			</p>
<p>Most of the artifacts in the museum’s collection will likely never be seen by the public, collected over the years to preserve these handcrafted works, first by the Crafts Guild of Manitoba and now by the museum, which inherited artifacts and the library after the guild closes.  in 1997.			</p>
<figure class= MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS </p>
<p>  Bison wool scarf and mittens made by Churchill in 1942. Colored wool is sheep wool, while brown wool is bison wool. </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>Bison wool scarf and mittens made by Churchill in 1942. Colored wool is sheep wool, while brown wool is bison wool.</p>
<p>“Some objects are not collected for display. They are collected for documentation, for study,” Reichert explains of the role of artefacts.			</p>
<p>With only two small galleries on the ground floor, the museum shares with the Manitoba Craft Council, Reichert says it’s impossible – and impractical – to display the entire collection.			</p>
<p>Some pieces are too delicate for prolonged exposure to light and air, and others may be better suited for research, showcasing an artist’s development and craft.			</p>
<p>“If you showed everything all the time, they would deteriorate,” she said, adding that changing exhibits frequently attracts repeat visitors and eliminates the possibility of museum fatigue.			</p>
<figure class= À l'aide de poils de bison recueillis sur des clôtures au zoo du parc Assiniboine, Churchill a créé le contour d'un bison dans une adaptation tissée des armoiries originales du Manitoba.  (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press) </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>Using bison hair collected from fences at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Churchill created the outline of a bison in a woven adaptation of the original Manitoba coat of arms.  (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>
<p>When it comes to pieces reminiscent of Manitoba, the collection has the pieces you expect, includes lengths of Manitoba tartan, designed by Hugh Rankin and hand-woven by Elsie Ogston, and hand-knitted zip-up sweater jackets. made from kits sold by Mary Maxim, a mail order.  company originally based in Sifton, Manitoba.			</p>
<p>There is also a ceramic bouquet of purple and yellow prairie crocuses, incongruously growing in an off-scale Red River cart, hand-modeled by artist Dorothy Campbell in the 1960s. The Craft Guild has sold crocus-themed carts, trivets and ashtrays for years at their annual sales, says Reichert.			</p>
<p>“It’s very kitsch, but it’s also a symbol of Manitoba,” she says of the 14-centimeter-high ceramic piece.			</p>
<p>A great landscape woven and embroidered with a great sky, rolling hills, canola fields and prairie grasses also speaks to prairie sensibilities.  Made by Myrna Harris about two decades ago, the framed piece measuring 44 by 79 centimeters represents a Manitoba perspective while showcasing a blend of wool felting, machine quilting, weaving, beading and embroidery.			</p>
<figure class= Les livres d'artisanat trop nombreux pour être comptés fournissent une ressource abondante.  (Dossiers de Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press) </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>Craft books too numerous to count provide an abundant resource.  (Files by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>
<p>“It’s a more contemporary piece, it’s multimedia, it’s about the prairie,” says Reichert.			</p>
<p>A strong decorative thread is also evident in another wall hanging depicting the Winnipeg skyline.  Less representative than the crocus cart sculpture, June Cameron’s piece features recognizable buildings such as the Manitoba Legislative Building interspersed with less identifiable structures.  Cameron woven it on a tapestry loom with woolen threads in gray, wine and pink, hand dyed with lichen pigments.			</p>
<p>“I like it because it’s so different and it’s subtle,” Reichert says of the muted tones and ambiguous buildings.			</p>
<p>Less ambiguous are handcrafted clothing like a black velvet waistcoat covered in beaded flowers, made by an unknown Métis craftsman, representing the people who lived here before Manitoba officially became a province.  A multi-colored men’s shirt made by Kay Seng on a backpack loom she brought from Myanmar to Canada 15 years ago reflects the craft tradition of the Karen people, who use hand-dyed yarns to create patterns complexes for clothes, scarves and shoulder bags.			</p>
<figure class= Un vase (avec brindille) fabriqué par Terry Hildebrand.  (Dossiers de Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press) </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>A vase (with twig) made by Terry Hildebrand.  (Files by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>
<p>“It represents the new Canadians who don’t have that origin of farm settlers,” says Reichert, referring to people like Seng who have shorter but equally valid backgrounds in Manitoba.			</p>
<p>Regardless of the origin of the artifacts, all demonstrate excellent workmanship and just a little ingenuity when supplies were scarce.  Churchill exercised his artistic license by weaving the Manitoba coat of arms from buffalo hair and sheep’s wool, but also used the yarn partly out of necessity, Reichert says.			</p>
<p>“During World War II (artisans) were looking to replace sheep’s wool because sheep’s wool was used for military uniforms,” she explains.			</p>
<p>For example, in 1942, members of the Crafts Guild of Manitoba asked zoo staff for permission to collect buffalo hair from zoo fences, then experimented with carding, dyeing and spinning.			</p>
<figure class= Une belle veste perlée exposée au musée.  (Dossiers de Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press) </p>
<p>“/>						</a><figcaption>
<p>A beautiful beaded jacket on display at the museum.  (Files by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>
<p>The resulting yarn worked as a substitute for sheep’s wool, with the exception of one crucial fact: buffalo hair did not accept dye well, so craftsmen had to work with all shades of brown produced naturally by the bison.			</p>
<p>This meant that every project made from the buffalo yarn was essentially the same color, including a knitted scarf and a pair of mittens also in the museum’s collection.			</p>
<p>The history of the bison wire has a recent epilogue.  Last summer, Reichert went to a bison farm in Stonewall to pick up a garbage bag full of bison hair to use in needle felting shops.  Some hair is curly, some straight, but all are brown.			</p>
<p>“We took inspiration from these people (in 1942) and decided it would be interesting to do something with them,” Reichert says of the buffalo hair hunting expedition.			</p>
<p>			</p>
<div class=
Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist for the Saturday Newspaper since 2000, writing for the first time on family entertainment and faith and religion since 2006.

Read the full biography

Source link