The work of five Yukoners is front and centre in the Canada’s newly redecorated diplomatic home in the United Kingdom.
A piece by Whitehorse artist Joyce Majiski, depicting swans on Marsh Lake, was transformed into a custom-made carpet for a Yukon-themed meeting room in Canada House in London. Two sculptures by Tlingit artist Ken Anderson and carvings by Duran Henry and Jacob Harris Blanchard are also on display.
Artists from across Canada were approached to provide potential submissions for the new floor coverings. “I was contacted by email from Foreign Affairs Canada and then the design team,” said Majiski, who was travelling in Vancouver at the time. “Within a week, they wanted three submissions of artwork in a very specific format, printed out at A3 size, mounted on foam core and delivered to Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. So here I am in Vancouver with my computer going holy, holy, how am I going to do that?”
She had to scramble, but managed to get printed, mounted versions of her work delivered on time. In addition to the swan piece that was eventually chosen, she also submitted an abstract of a bird, and several depictions of caribou – six pieces in total.
“It’s a great honour to have my work in Canada House,” said Majiski. “I thought it was a joke when I first got the email. I was like, what? Foreign Affairs? Seriously? And I thought oh, well that’s very cool. How are my images going to get turned into a rug design? Images are pretty complex, I’ve been doing a lot of pencil work, pretty intricate – I was like, how are they going to make this into a rug? But from what I’ve seen, not having seen it close up, they’ve done a beautiful job.”
Majiski hopes to see the rug in person in December, when she’ll be travelling to Ireland for an exhibit of her work. “For Yukoners, the difference between U.K. and Ireland is like going from here to Prince George. So yeah, I’m hoping to get there.”
Sid McKeown, owner of Whitehorse-based stone supplier Sidrock, also had his work incorporated into the Canada House decor. He produced two unique stone tabletops for the building. One, representing the Yukon, is made from jade quarried from the Frances Lake area, between Ross River and Watson Lake. The second, representing the Northwest Territories, is made from a boulder of raw ore from the Cantung mine on the Yukon-N.W.T. border.
A third tabletop, made from rock sourced from north of Iqaluit on Baffin Island, would have represented Nunavut. But that order was cancelled, said McKeown.
Sidrock had previously been commissioned to create a desktop for the Cantung head offices, so he had rock from the mine already on hand.
“It’s very cool. It’s metallic, looks like a chunk of metal,” McKeown said. “It’s very nice, and very, very unusual. You will never see a rock that looks like that anywhere… Jade is OK too, but we use lots of that so we’re not as impressed by that anymore.”
Asked whether he was anxious to see his tabletops in use, he said, “If I was there I might stop by and see it, but I’m not making a trip.”