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New lease on life for art

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Acho Dene Koe/Fort Liard - It's been a long time coming, but renovations were scheduled to wrap up last week at one of the North's best-established craft shops.

Crews worked over the past month to fix up the exterior of Acho Dene Native Crafts in Fort Liard, a company which has served the community - in one form or another - for almost 40 years.

NNSL photo

Workers brave the snow and mud to renovate the exterior of Acho Dene Native Crafts in Fort Liard. The renovations were scheduled to wrap up this week. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

"They're just finishing off the logs that are sticking out from under the roof," said store manager Eva Hope last week. "They'll probably be finished by Friday."

Renovations have included changing out decayed timbers in the sizable log structure, as well as rebuilding the front steps.

"All the steps were rotten, so they're changing them," said long-time worker Lucy Lomen.

Hope, who has worked with the craft store since 1976, said the store was busy preparing for its slower months, following the rush of summer.

"We just kind of stock up on projects that we know in the past have sold well in stores before Christmas," she said.

These items are "mostly moccasins and some mitts and baskets," she said.

As for the summer, Hope said it was productive, but she doesn't have a tally on how productive it was just yet.

"It was very busy," she said. "I haven't done up my report on how many visitors have come through here."

A quick glance at the store's guest book shows how varied visitors have been, however.

"People come from all different places," Lomen said.

"Germany, Alaska, Yellowknife. We have a lot of people from Switzerland, I noticed," said assistant Crystal Hope.

The craft store has long been renowned for its birchbark baskets, but its gloves and moccasins are big sellers too, Lomen said.

In the back of the store, Lomen worked on a large piece of moose hide, cutting it into smaller pieces.

She explained that the pieces go towards "kits," packages of raw material - hide and beads, among others - that are assembled for sale by a group of Dene women in town.

"I make the kit and give it out to the ladies," she said. "They just sew them together."

As Lomen cut away, she said that she prefers to work on the smaller items herself.

"I know how to make baskets, but I don't have the patience," she said with a laugh.