PROFILE — Labrador teen turns grass into works of art

CBC Kids News • Published 2021-05-03 06:00

Ella Jacque wants to pass on Inuit tradition

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Ella Jacque


Rigolet, Newfoundland and Labrador



Claim to fame

An Inuit teen is helping keep the traditions that have come to define her remote coastal community alive and well.

Ella Jacque has been practicing the art of grasswork since she was nine.

It’s an artform that involves gathering nearby materials and weaving them into practical and beautiful objects.

Now Ella wants to pass the tradition onto others.

"Doing something that I know that my ancestors did, and that my family that came before me did and passed onto their children, definitely makes me feel very connected to my culture, my family and my history." - Ella Jacque, 15

How does it work?

Ella, who lives near the ocean in the town of Rigolet, collects natural shore grass for her art.

She slowly turns it into household items or decorative pieces.

“It used to be used, years ago, more so for more practical purposes, like pot holders, coasters and baskets,” Ella said. “I've even heard tell of people making bassinets for their babies.”

How it all started

For generations the craft has been passed down through Ella’s family.

A knit, star-like coil of woven grass

Although grasswork was traditionally used to make large baskets and practical objects around the home, much of it now focuses on small decorative objects. (Image submitted by Ella Jacque)

Ella remembers wanting to learn after seeing the way the artform tied her family together.

“Watching my gran and my other family members, and hearing them talk about doing grasswork — especially seeing the things that they made — I think that's where it first came to me that I wanted to learn how to do that.”

One of Ella’s grassworks in progress. (Image submitted by Ella Jacque)

How grasswork is grounding

Ella said that grasswork has helped her create a close connection to the land through foraging the materials that grow around her. 

But she said it’s the familial connection that really makes it special to her.

“[It] definitely makes me feel very connected to my culture, my family and my history.”

With files from Conor McCann/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: submitted by Ella Jacque

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