Honoring my ancestors

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PAUL, MARY CHRISTIANNE (Christina, Christy Ann) (Morris), Micmac artist and artist’s model; b. c. 1804 in Stewiacke, Colchester County, N. S., or Ship Harbour, Halifax County, N. S., daughter of Hobblewest Paul; d. 1886 in Halifax, N.S.

She was one of the most amazing Mi’kmaq artists of her time. Extremely talented, she made a name for herself in Nova Scotia in the late 1800’s. She did both Quillwork and ribbon applique and has been my inspiration since I was introduced to Quillwork some 20 years ago.

Mrs Morris did exquisite work in the traditional Micmac crafts, supporting her family by the sale of quillwork and basketry. Her needlework, quillwork, splint basketry, and a full-sized canoe and paddles all won first prizes at various provincial exhibitions and she once sold two beaded costumes to Indian Commissioner William Chearnley for the impressive sum of $300. In 1854 she was living in Dartmouth, N.S., and a year later had moved across the harbour to the Northwest Arm, Halifax. There, “by her own industry,” she built and furnished a green frame house and kept a few farm animals.

Only two works of art by Mrs Morris herself have survived: a pair of snowshoes, woven in fine mesh for a mayor of Halifax, and her now-famous cradle panels done about 1868. The birch-bark panels are decorated with coloured porcupine quills in the Northern Lights, Starfish, and Fylfot motifs, on a white quill ground. Central designs are two moose, worked in black quills, a type of realistic motif rare in Micmac quillwork. The panels comprise the largest single piece of Micmac quillwork in existence, and show her to have been a master quiller.

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