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A Journey To What Matters and ASCA Partnership- ARTShops 2019 Experimental Qaspeq Construction

A Journey To What Matters and ASCA Partnership- ARTShops 2019 Experimental Qaspeq Construction

The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs.

Project: ARTShops 2019 Qaspeq Sewing Workshop
Alaska State Council on the Arts Partnership
Story by: Amber Webb

During a series of qaspeq-making workshops, I came to a deeper understanding of the ways our cultural garments encourage connection. For thousands of years, the intimate act of making garments to fit the bodies of our loved-ones as a means of protection was also a way we told the world who we are. The act of self-identification through pattern work is a powerful one. During this project, I began noticing the small details that distinguish qaspeq artists and realized that qaspeq construction is as unique as the fingerprints of each person who makes them. Some of us have family patterns, but those of us that lost those can create them for the next generations in our families. The qaspeq is a functional symbol of adaptation and resiliency. Encouraging more people to learn the art of garment construction is a valuable way to assert indigenous identity and worldview. It is a way of knowing who we are. 

A friend of mine recently told me that indigenous people gain power when they dress like their ancestors did. We make qaspeqs honoring the spirit and ingenuity of the people who came before us.