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Honouring tradition

A Q&A with Indigenous artisan Megan Samms about traditional methods

Campus and Community

By Pamela Gill

Megan Samms is an Indigenous artist, cloth maker and entrepreneur, and is the owner of Live Textiles and co-owner of Katalisk Sipu Gardens.

Ms. Samms describes both business ventures as being rooted in tradition. Her “live textiles” are naturally dyed, handwoven and finished by hand in her studio in rural Ktaqmkuk at her Katalisk Sipu Gardens (Codroy Valley, Newfoundland).

The gardens are operated by Ms. Samms and her partner, Ash Hall. It is an off-grid, mixed mini-farm and apothecary, offering fine body-care goods, soap, herbs, produce, cut flowers and more from the land.

They also raise honeybees and dual purpose, heritage chickens.

Silver laced Wyandotte rooster at Katalisk Sipu Gardens.
Photo: Megan Samms

Ms. Samms answered a few questions for the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre’s Entrepreneur Spotlight.

PG: Why is it important to you to use traditional methods?

MS: My home community is Millville, Codroy Valley, so named for a (non-functioning, these days) wool mill right next to my parents’ home.

There are long roots of textile work and weaving in the valley, specifically on the north side of the river, where I am from.

Mi’kmaw were known for basketry and hand-weaving on looms right here; a loom is only a tool and allows efficient production of work and a means to make a living in a creative, ecologically sustainable way.

Contemporary practitioners’ work is built on the shoulders of those who came before. Maintaining tradition, while staying contemporary and relevant, is in respect to my ancestors, the land and place and, also, traditional hand work and dyework is inherently more sustainable than mass production.

PG: Where do you find your dyes and how are they used?

MS: My natural dye palette is seasonal; I grow and harvest dyestuff from the land around my traditional territory home and farm.

I have been sampling colours for years and now have a vast and ever evolving colourway library. I draw on that sampling practice to create new combinations, hues and shades.

Organic cotton Swedish lace purposeful cloth, handwoven and naturally dyed.
Photo: Megan Samms

I design textiles and weave together carefully considered fibers after applying natural dyes to them. I make functional pieces meant for everyday use – kitchen towels, bath towels, wash-up cloths, purposeful cloths, runners, shawls, pla’kit (blankets), etc.

Live Textiles are designed to be intergenerational pieces, staying with a person or family for a long time, to care for them and be cared for.

PG: What’s different about the way you grow produce at Katalisk Sipu Gardens?

MS: We grow produce, herbs, flowers and fruit with care and without pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.

Some of the produce on the farm.
Photo: Megan Samms

We feed our food with high quality compost and cultivate a closed loop system focusing on minimal wastage and maximum health and wellness for people, community and, most importantly, the land.

In 2021, Ms. Samms and her partner will build a community-based studio and greenhouse in the Codroy Valley. The studio will be a place for community art events as well as, in 2022, an artist-in-residence space.

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