Nancy Hager is from the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation and is a member of the Crow Clan. She was born and raised in Mayo, Yukon (YT).
In 1990, Hager began to teach herself moose-hair tufting by looking at pictures, asking questions and experimenting with moose and caribou hair. Nancy’s pieces often depict Yukon flowers and are made utilizing both dyed moose hair and natural “off the hide” moose hair. People donate moose hair to Nancy, who then washes it, brushes out the fuzz, and stores it until it is needed. This is also done with fish scales and porcupine quills as well.
For Nancy, the most important part of her practice is passing her knowledge on to others. Since the mid-1990s, she has taught numerous workshops in the Yukon: at schools in Pelly Crossing and Mayo; at cultural events in Dawson that include the Commissioners Potlatch; Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre; Moose Hide Gathering, Yukon Riverside Arts Festival; at the Mayo Arts Festival; Adeka Festival; Teachers Orientation; 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and Yukon Adventure on the web.
In 1991, Northern Native Broadcasting CHON-FM, Yukon, interviewed Hager about moose hair tufting and her personal approach to the craft; and in 2008, the film ‘Le Quete’ featured a piece of Nancy’s work and showed her dyeing moose hair. Hager’s work is in private collections throughout the Yukon and the world.
By Sarah Lindstein
For musicians, the cultural side of the Olympiad was a fantastic way to open their music to new ears.
The same opportunity existed for visual artists, but in a different fashion.
Yukon artists are interested in having international visitors view their art and take away important cultural messages, as well as having their art critiqued by a knowledgeable and cosmopolitan audience.
Nancy Hager, Whitehorse visual artist, acknowledges the crucial need to have a keen eye on a piece of work.
Her work evolves out of a somewhat unusual medium: moose tuftings: “I take a piece of velvet canvas, pierce it and loop the tufting into it. I pull it tight and it ‘poofs’ up,” describes Hager.
Her creations are vivid and intricate, gorgeous Yukon wildflowers puffing up from a black velvet background.
Hager informs me she also creates faces with moose tuftings, but the theme for the Olympics was to showcase Northern wildflowers.
Moose tufting, like weaving, is a traditional art that is in danger of extinction. The skills required are passed down from generation to generation, and Hager is dedicated to continuing the craft.
“I’m excited that my art is being viewed by the world, and that moose tufting might be explored by others. It’s also a great chance to be in a professional venue, as Inuit Art Gallery is one of the top galleries in Western Canada,” says Hager.
Constructive criticism on how to improve her work was a key factor in Hager’s exhibitions at the Olympics. Her work is currently on display at the prestigious Inuit Art Gallery in Gastown, Vancouver as well as at the Yukon booth at the Aboriginal Artisan exhibition hall.
While Hager appreciates the professional advantage of a critical eye, she also maintains the need to continue traditional forms of creating moose tuftings.
“My focus is on exposing moose tufting art to the world, and I know there are many who have never heard of it before,” she says.
“Everyone was excited about it at the gallery because they had never had a moose tufting artist before, and I was happy to showcase it there and at the Yukon booth.”
Hager teaches workshops and classes on moose tufting, attempting to revive the dying art.
She found the rush to create art when was accepted into the exhibition a bit of a struggle: “It was a challenge to get it finished in time for the show, and when it is being looked at by the world, well, you want it done correctly,” says Hager.
Hager hopes to continue teaching moose tufting to the next generation, and appreciates her Olympic experience in enhancing her technical skills, as well as getting moose tufting into the public awareness.
“It’s a great experience, people who had never heard of it before could open their eyes to a traditional art form and culture,” says Hager.