The Yukon Trappers Association and the Northern Renewable Resources council are teaming up in an effort to get Yukoners buying local fur.
The Unfurled project is a series of events culminating in one full day of workshops, demonstrations, and a marketplace on March 10, hosted by trappers, craftspeople and fur enthusiasts aiming to solidify the connection between Yukoners and one of the Territory’s most time honoured industries.
Lisa Preto is a trapper living in Haines Junction. She works the traplines with her husband Andy and two young daughters. She’s facilitating a number of workshops around the Yukon, including a beaver plucking workshop at Head to Toe on January 25th and a “Make it Wild” event at Yukonstruct on February 3rd. The Beaver Plucking Workshop at Head to Toe Hair and Body Studio in Whitehorse is an interactive event where guests learn how to prepare a beaver pelt.
“We will be cutting Yukon beaver pelts and plucking the guard hairs to create a very soft and warm material. We will make versatile hand and toe warmers, and cuff or bangle bracelets,” said Preto. Guests snack on appies while working with locally harvested fur – and everyone gets a discount on waxing.
The “Make it Wild” event at Yukonstruct involves learning to cut and sew tiny pom poms with wild Yukon marten and mink.
“Participants can make them into key fobs, zipper pulls, earrings or necklaces. We will also laser cut some bow tie blanks out of leather, and cover them with marten and mink fur.”
This week Preto is kicking off a collaborative workshop in her hometown of Haines Junction. She describes it as an ambitious project in collaboration with the Alsek Renewable Resource Council, Champagne Aishihik First Nation and Unfurled. Participants are sewing 500 pom poms to put on top of Team Yukon’s toques at the Arctic Winter Games in March.
“The wolf pelts are from a local trapping program. The furs are beautiful, and volunteers are excited to get sewing. Some of these pom poms will be for sale at Unfurled, to help fund the initiative,” Preto said.
Preto went to Old Crow in November and conducted three days of workshops at the Yukon College Alice Frost Campus. She worked with 12 participants.
“I have sent up more fur and supplies, and they are experimenting with different fur techniques, and my favourite – adding their beautiful beadwork to some of the pieces.”
Preto noted that Unfurled is focussed on drawing in the public to learn about Yukon trapping and Yukon wild furs. “The Yukon is rich with people who can make beautiful hand-sewn garments, traditional clothing, functional accessories for the North, and who are designing beautiful and innovative products… We really want to see more of these furs staying in the hands of Yukoners – being sewn locally and worn locally.”
Preto says that fur hasn’t lost its relevance over time. Especially in the North.
“There is nothing that can compare with the warmth, durability and natural properties of fur to keep you warm, particularly in high winter winds. Tens of thousands of years of people wearing fur is evidence of that.”
Preto is hoping that her workshops will help Yukoners deepen their connection with local fur. “I want them to learn about the Yukon industry, talk to Yukon trappers and crafters and feel confident in choosing to support this local industry.”
Kelly Milner with Shot in the Dark Productions, has been involved with the Unfurled campaign from the get-go and echoes Preto’s sentiment. “Fur has been an important part of Yukon culture since… well… forever. It makes sense if you live here. It’s cold and fur keeps you warm,” said Milner. “If you live in the Yukon you should wear fur and the ethical, sustainable choice is to buy local Yukon fur. We want Yukoners to feel proud to wear Yukon fur and have their own fur story.”
Milner compares it to a farmer’s market. “People like to know where the things that they buy come from. They like to know a bit about the people who grew it or made it. I think knowing more about who the trapper is, what kind of fur is being used, and even who made the final product are all things people care about. We want to help make the connections.”
She hopes that more Yukoners will “become ambassadors by buying and wearing Yukon fur products with pride.”
For more information on events and to purchase tickets visit ImFurReal.com/events or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
So comb your whiskers and brush off your pelts
Events in Whitehorse
Thursday, Jan. 25: Unfurl and Unwind: a beaver plucking workshop takes place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Head to Toe, located at 102, 108 Jarvis St.
Saturday, Feb. 3: The Make it Wild event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Yukonstruct, located at 135 Industrial Rd.
Friday, Feb. 23: There will be a movie night at Baked Café, located at 100 Main St. (time to be confirmed).
Saturday, March 10: Unfurled is an all-day trade-show concept happening taking place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. The marketplace will feature storytelling, hands-on workshops, presentations and the chance to chat with trappers and craftspeople.
Events in Haines Junction
Workshops take place on Tuesday nights (time TBC) from Jan. 23 through February (location to be confirmed).