What an amazing experience! Ecole Holt Couture was invited to present a couture sewing workshop in Haines Junction, Yukon in August 2016. If you’re like me, you’re wondering where this place is and what is it all about. And so, I did some research to answer these two initial questions.
Haines Junction, Yukon – not to be confused with Haines Alaska, is a community of about 600+ residents where highway 1 and highway 3 converge in the Canadian Yukon. If you continue to follow highway 3 south you’ll end up in Haines Alaska, and if you follow highway 1 north you’ll end up in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Haines Junction is situated at the eastern edge of Kluane National Park and Reserve, 1.5 hours drive west of the city of Whitehorse, the capital of northwest Canada’s Yukon territory. Kluane is the home of Canada’s highest mountain peak, 5,959-metre Mount Logan. You may be starting to create a mental image of a wilderness intersection in the middle of the bush of the great Canadian north.
To my embarrassment, that’s what I thought too, but was overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised by discovering a vibrant community well adjusted to the 21st century. Haines Junction is a beautiful village nestled in the northern boreal forest with a brand new 300 seat concert hall and convention center (that sells out for its annual Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival well into its second decade), and the DaKu Cultural Centre teaching, curatorial and interpretive facility of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) Dän (people) and National Park Visitor Centre.
Upon landing in Whitehorse, my traveling companion D’Arcy Moses (whom I’d only just met on the flight) and I were graciously ushered into CBC Radio North studio to do a live interview with Tara McCarthy, host of ‘the Weekender’ to promote our respective workshops and the Junction Arts & Music event.
Ecole Holt Couture presented 3 workshops over the weekend, demonstrating how to create and sew professionally made couture items using native Yukon Fox. Each workshop concentrated on a different project suggested by the participants, items that they would like to attempt themselves. The participants ranged from novices to experienced sewers, and from the reviews we received everyone learned something valuable to take home with them to apply to their own inspired fur projects.
What I took away from this experience was the exuberance and creative energy that exists within the people, both of the First Nations and incomers (all of us who are not first nations) to the Canadian north. These are a people that appreciate the arts and heritage crafts, who originate a wealth of innovative art and music. The arts, as it happens is also well supported in the north by corporate sponsorship and various levels of government who “get it” that the arts promotes well being plus local economic success.
If you asked me, would I do it again? “In a heartbeat”. – cheers, J
(pic below: demonstrating the difficulty of cutting fur when it’s not properly secured to the cutting surface…)