In 1972 a grassroots craft collective called Arnaqarvik ᐊᕐᓇᖃᕐᕕᒃ
(a place of women) started in the town of Spence Bay, Northwest Territories, present day Taloyoak, ᑕᓗᕐᖪᐊᖅ Nunavut. Arnaqarvik was a highly experimental venue for local women to creatively hone their skills and tell their stories through fabric and artistic forms of production. Arctic natural dyes became a hallmark of their identity as a collective.
Within the course of two years, Arnaqarvik women were selling their innovative craftwork and fashion across North America. The craft collective lives on to this day through the business of Taluq Designs.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Arnaqarvik, founders and key members of the group partnered with Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society to compile and document the group's legacy of artwork and relationships. The team travelled to Taloyoak in October 2021 with an extensive collection of early Arnaqarvik sewing, fashion and dolls to reflect upon their meaning as a community.
Two women-Judy McGrath and Arnaoyok ᐊᕐᓇᐅᔪᖅ Alookee- met in Spence Bay, N.W.T. (Taloyoak, Nunavut) in 1972. Their friendship led to the establishment of a local craft industry that provided semi-nomadic families a way to engage in both traditional skills and the wage economy. With Judy and Arnaoyok's support, the community women of Taloyoak were able to explore and express their creativity, winning national awards, international attention, and a way to preserve their land-based lifestyle.
ARCTIC FASHION REDEFINED
Long Mother Hubbard with light floral print and delta trim modeled standing on a rock in a
Navy and white stroud vest with appliqued birds, 1974_edited
Arnouyok Alookee modeling a calico pant suit with a jacket of parka cover fabric with delt
Arnaqarvik fashion bridged the worlds of North and South. Seamstresses applied cultural skills honed over generations to contemporary materials and designs to create a unique line of clothing that was truly in a category of its own. Each piece, exquisitely handcrafted, carries the signature of its maker in Inuktut syllabics. Embroidered, woven and crocheted embellishment of local natural dyes often adorned the pieces, along with meticulously carved buttons of ivory, antler, bone and stone.
In 2021, our team travelled to Taloyoak to research the community story of the Arnaqarvik collections. Two collections of early Arnaqarvik artwork belonging to Judy McGrath and Eva Strickler – totalling 400 items – were shipped to Taloyoak for a week of local school and community programming.
A major goal of this trip was to reconnect people physically with their community's artwork. The importance of this connection is highlighted in the images of project photographer Cora Devos.
DIGITAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES
As a commercial producer, Arnaqarvik created most of its artwork to sell outside of its community. This resulted in there being few historical artworks left in Taloyoak today.
We have worked with museums, archives and private collectors across North America to build a virtual Arnaqarvik collection to reunite these important artworks with their community. Browse our digital catalogue, and share in the uploading and editing of information about these pieces.