A little doll called Effie brings pride to Cambridge Bay
IQALUIT — She only stands four inches tall and is filled with stuffing, but Effie, a hand-stitched doll developed in Cambridge Bay, is fostering friendships and spurring economic development within Nunavut communities.
Effie is a pocket-sized doll clad in a traditional western Arctic Mother Hubbard parka. Named after a Cambridge Bay elder, she was developed three years ago by Pat File, who was then a resident of Cambridge Bay resident .
The doll has become a pet project for women across Nunavut who sew, and is attracting attention from tourists to Nunavut, who want an affordable keepsake.
The doll has been sold at arts and craft exhibits across the territory and this Christmas season, will be mailed to southern consumers.
File, then the community wellness co-ordinator for Cambridge Bay, originally sewed the dolls as gifts for friends, but she later decided to share the pattern as a community wellness and economic development project.
“We started talking about creating more of the little dolls in Cambridge Bay as something that could be sold to tourists as well,” said File, now a research officer at the legislative assembly in Iqaluit.
File and Cambridge Bay’s economic development officer held two doll-making workshops in 1998, the women of Cambridge Bay began selling them at local craft fairs. File said the dolls are also sold out of Cambridge Bay’s visitor centre.
Community wellness project
File then created a doll-making package that included the pattern and necessary materials. The packages were sold and distributed to women at Cambridge Bay’s wellness centre. After File left the community, the dolls were named Effie, in honour of a popular elder who had passed away.
Sewing, File says, promotes community wellness.
“I think it has so many elements of what wellness is about. Ladies’ sewing groups are a wonderful place where people share ideas and reinforce relationships and strong friendships that are there,” File said.
“Those are the networks that often help, when people are facing problems.”
File says the project also encourages parents to work with their children.
It also encourages people to create.
“Wellness is about the process of people getting together and creating and not just consuming. So long as we’re just consumers… you’re always defining your life in terms of lack of money or lack of what there is in that store. You can define your life in other ways,” File said.
The dolls have also opened a new economic development opportunity — though small — to residents of the community.
The dolls can be made using left over bits of materials at virtually no cost, File said. The dolls are typically sold for $15 to $20.
“It’s pretty small. From an economic development perspective it isn’t a big-ticket item. But if somebody made 20 dolls and sold them for $20 they could make $400. In some people’s lives that’s a lot,” File said.
“The capacity to earn even a small amount of money in some communities is very limited,” she said.
The dolls are also filling a gap of lower-priced souvenirs marketed to tourists.
“They’re often wanting small souvenirs. It’s often hard to find things. It’s an area of tourism I think is very under developed,” she said.
The dolls can be transformed into broaches, Christmas tree decorations and zipper pulls.
Women in Cambridge Bay now gather at the visitors’ centre to make the dolls. Women are paid daily on a piece-meal basis and their sewing is a popular tourist attraction, said Cliff Sabirsh, economic development officer for Cambridge Bay.
“It’s turning out to be a nice little project. Before Christmas we filled orders for about six dozen dolls going out to galleries in Edmonton and Baker Lake,” Sabirsh said.
Since moving to Iqaluit, File has shared the pattern with a local women’s sewing group. The women have sold the dolls at craft fairs and have received orders from southern Canadians.
Workers at the legislative assembly have also begun sewing and the dolls now decorate one of the Christmas trees now in the assembly.