April Allen is a modern artist and designer with a small business, Stitched by April, and an online bead supply shop, Indigenous Bead Supply Canada. April is an Inuk, originally from Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, is a small community located on the North Coast of Labrador. She currently resides in Labrador City, NL.
April is a retired dental therapist, and now spends most of her time creating beadwork and sewing projects. She appreciates creating contemporary pieces that incorporate her Inuit culture, history, and traditional materials by constructing many types of sealskin, antler, and beaded earrings, as well as clothing. April demonstrates a strong passion for her work – valuing the extensive detail in which she creates with every stitch. For April, the art of beading is therapeutic. April notes, “My passion as an Inuk artist is a result of the satisfaction of appreciating the finished product. When looking at my completed work, feelings of pride, joy, and contentment washes over me. These feelings are what makes this line of artistry worth the dedicated time and care that I give.”
Her mother spent much of her time sewing when April was a child, leaving April to demonstrate an interest in craftwork from a young age and learning how to knit and sew from her mother. At the beginning of the pandemic, they both participated in volunteer work to create facemasks for individuals residing in Labrador. April continues to learn from her mother/auntie/relatives and strengthens her connection with her culture through beading and sewing.
Allen’s signature earrings are made with sealskin and fox fur. She quotes, “In my ancestor’s time, these materials were used sustainably to provide warmth in the extreme cold and water barriers (we still use these materials today, for the same reasons). The energy of my ancestors radiated through me while creating my signature earrings. I spent many hours working on the design and decided upon one that brought pride to me. The V shape Sealskin design resembles a tattoo, located on the forehead, which to me, signifies entering womanhood for us Inuit, while the silver fox fur adds a contemporary look that will leave one feeling timeless. Creating each piece of art, especially this one, leaves me with feelings of love, excitement, honor, and pride.”
Additionally, she incorporates symbols such as caribou tracks, moose tracks, salmon skin, Uluk and inukshuks—all symbols of her culture—into her designs. For instance, caribou and moose tracks derive from the animal that once provided food and clothing, and during the harsh Northern winters, these items were vital for survival. In more recent times, they are also an avenue to create jewelry, which many Inuit use to identify and educate others. For April, it is an honor to use these symbols in her artwork and share them.
Allen constantly explores new variations of designs for future creations and considers where the materials come from and new ways that she can incorporate education into her projects. Allen believes that sharing and connecting with Indigenous youth in artistic practices is vital. She has been selected to work as an online facilitator for Connected North. This program works with schools across the territory, Nunavut, and throughout the rest of the country. Allen was selected for this role as the program believed that her skillset will be an asset, as these skills of sharing can be offered to schools, teachers, and students, to help further connect individuals with our Inuit culture through the art of using our traditional materials (i.e., sealskin).
Specifically, she teaches and shares with students from K-12 in the Nunavut region. Here, she passes down traditional knowledge by allowing students to learn what she once learned from her mother. Allen quotes: “I am honored to be granted this opportunity to connect with students of the North while delivering meaningful and engaging virtual experiences to both students and teachers. I hope to share my own journey with the students, to shed light on the fact that anything is possible, and life/career options are vast.