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Crafts for the new generation

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (June 28/04) - Kathy Mouse learned crafts at a young age. She recalls she was about six or seven when her mother, Annie Mouse, began teaching her traditional Dene artistic skills.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Kathy Mouse of Hay River is passing her knowledge of native crafts on to young people. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"I really wanted to play outside with the kids, but she chased me around to go inside to do it," Mouse says.

She says she loves her mother, now deceased, for teaching her.

"Now I would like to pass it to the younger children," she says. "That's the only way they will keep it alive."

Mouse, who is originally from Fort Simpson, recently began teaching crafts to youngsters and adults at the Growing Together program in Hay River.

She says the youngsters' faces light up when they learn something new, because they're so proud.

"I love teaching children or adults, it doesn't matter," she says.

Mouse believes that, these days, young people are being kept from learning crafts by too much TV and too many video games.

However, the mother of five, with four children still at home, is teaching crafts to her own family.

Her seven-year-old daughter Kaitlyn is learning beading, she says. "She always throws it away every time she pokes her fingers. That's the same thing I still do."

Mouse specializes in beading, but also does some tufting. "Just a little bit of everything, but what I mostly do is beading."

She also makes slippers, gloves and jewelry. "I really want to get into making jackets."

Her goal is to eventually open a crafts store or teach full-time. "Everyone says you've got to follow your heart to reach your goals, and that's what I think I'm doing."

Studying the craft

Mouse honed her skills by attending the Native Arts and Crafts Artisans Program at Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alta.

"That's a good little crafts school," she says. "I loved that school."

She wanted to get a certificate so she could teach.

Mouse also credits the late Ann Buggins, who was a respected elder on the Hay River Reserve, with helping her learn crafts. "She was a great teacher to everyone."

While she makes her living with crafts, Mouse says she doesn't do it just for the money. "It's fun. It's fun to learn new stuff."