Tłı̨chǫ colouring book features high school students' intricate artwork

A new colouring book for adults is showcasing traditional Tlicho designs by a group of high school students from Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo, Northwest Territories.

The book reconnects best selling author with N.W.T. art teacher

Unity is an colouring book featuring artwork created by Tlicho high school students. (Submitted by Crystal Salamon) (Submitted by Crystal Salamon)

A new colouring book for adults is showcasing traditional Tłı̨chǫ designs by a group of high school students from Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo, Northwest Territories.

The book, titled Unity, is published by best-selling colouring book author Crystal Salamon who grew up in Hay River.

The book features more than two dozen mandalas — intricate circular geometric designs — hand drawn by students.

The work is the result of an idea from Salamon's former junior high school art teacher, Karen Gelderman.

Gelderman said the idea has been a few years in the making and her former student was the "perfect connection" to make it a reality.

This mandala – an intricate circular geometric design – by Cheryl Lafferty is one of 25 featured in a colouring book titled Unity. (Submitted by Karen Gelderman)

Book dedicated to Tłı̨chǫ women

Some of Gelderman's students at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School were young parents. Often, she would photocopy their drawings to give to their children to colour.

"That inspired me to make something that you can take home in a book form," Gelderman said.

The book is "dedicated to the Tłı̨chǫ women whose beautiful beadwork, embroidery and traditional sewing inspires us all."

Gelderman says it is also a nod to the tradition of gifting family and friends with artwork.

"So this is kind of carrying on that gift of art and spreading beauty," Gelderman said.

Gelderman said the reaction from the students "has been nothing but positive."

This coloured-in version by Paige Drybones is featured in the book. ‘The way that [the students] infuse their own culture and their own identity into their own drawings is beautiful,’ Salamon said. (Submitted by Karen Gelderman)

Teacher student connection

Salamon was a student of Gelderman when she attended Diamond Jenness Secondary School in Hay River.

She remembers Gelderman letting her use her teacher's own art supplies for a school project, something that left a lasting impact on the artist.

"So to be able to now help her do something to help other kids be encouraged with their art felt really great," Salamon said.

"It sort of feels like things have come full circle." 

She said an adult colouring book is a fun and relaxing way to be mindful, relieve stress and "just be in the moment."

"They pull you in, and before you know it, you've been doing it for hours."

Another madala featured in the book, this one by Chelsey Daniels. (Submitted by Crystal Salamon)

Giving back

Gelderman retired from teaching a year ago but works with the Tłı̨chǫ government's Department of Culture and Lands Protection doing art and heritage work.

The proceeds of the book will go to support arts programming in Tłı̨chǫ schools.

She said the motivation behind that was that arts programming is often cut or overlooked in schools.

"Any opportunity to be a creator and not just consume popular culture … it's nothing but good," Gelderman said.

"I think it's important to have opportunities to see that your actual work, work you've created, has an audience and has a market. And the colouring book kind of proves that."

with files from Trail's End and John Van Dusen