MEET OUR (LOCAL) MAKERS: Indigenous weaver, Jessica Silvey, captures the spirit of the forest in her cedar baskets, wall hangings and mats

by Laura Goldstein

Jessica Silvey

Jessica Silvey’s passion for weaving was instilled in her early by visits with her paternal grandmother harvesting plants in the bush. Photo courtesy Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio

A childhood spent with her paternal grandmother fishing, gardening and harvesting cedar roots had a profound impact on fibre artist, Jessica Silvey. Those memories imbued in her a passion for traditional weaving techniques and patterns and a reverence for nature.

Silvey’s hand-made, aromatic woven pieces from her Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio in Sechelt B.C., can be found at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rdAvenue, Vancouver.

“I remember as a child being in awe of beautiful baskets woven by my aunts that were so huge, I could sit inside them and pull the lids over my head,” laughs Silvey, of Coast Salish and Portuguese descent. Predominately fishermen, Silvey was brought up with her extended family in Egmont, B.C. on 29 acres of waterfront. She was accustomed to seeing her father and uncles mending their nets and she accompanied her grandmother into the bush to gather bark and cedar roots to use for weaving baskets.

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To create colours in her baskets, Silvey makes dyes from plants. Photo courtesy Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio

“I’m mostly self-taught and love the whole process of gathering roots in the spring when the sap is running. My kids used to tease me that the bathtub was full of cedar!” Silvey confides. “I love the golden patina of the wood. All the dyes I use in my pieces are natural from plants- Red Alder bark for burgundy to orange shades and black from boiling iron or from roots buried deep in the mud. It’s a time-consuming and meticulous process but I feel so rich and contented when I leave the forest and the weaving is very meditative.”

Silvey sometimes incorporates found eagle down feathers from the beach into her baskets and wall hangings.

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Whether weaving baskets, mats or wall hangings, all require meticulous work that Silvey finds meditative. Photo courtesy Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio

Recently she gave a cedar basket weaving workshop to 31 participants at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) and her artistry is part of the current Exhibition, The Fabric of Our Land: Salish Weaving running until April 15th, 2018.

 An appreciation of weaving, like everything made by hand, is undergoing a renaissance: “You know,” adds Silvey, “I see weaving as more than a craft. It’s a legacy because there is a part of yourself in everything you create.”

Jessica Silvey

Silvey sometimes incorporates found eagle down feathers from the beach, bark and twigs into her baskets and wall hangings. Photo courtesy Red Cedar Woman Weaving Studio.

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