Lavinia Flaherty, who creates under the name Sapangak, is an artist currently residing in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, QC. She creates beautifully beaded pieces such as doilies and earrings using bone and caribou antler and naluaq (dehaired sealskin). Flaherty also enjoys making clothing such as leather slippers decorated with intricate beadwork and rabbit fur trim. She shares images of her work and sells her creations on her Instagram page.
Flaherty’s grandmother was a seamstress, so she grew up seeing her grandmother create things with her hands. “She didn’t really use a sewing machine,”  says Flaherty of her grandmother’s penchant for sewing and beadwork. However, it wasn’t until Flaherty moved to Kuujjuaq that her interest in beadwork and sewing really took off. “I was surrounded by so many creators, beaders, just everywhere,” Flaherty says. “I always knew about the basics of beading, but all the new techniques that I learned are from friends and the people I met here in Nunavik.”
From there, Flaherty continued to expand her creativity and try different things, including using things she finds on the land. When she finds things in her daily travels that she thinks may be useful in her creations, she will keep it, even if she doesn’t know what it will be used for just yet. “When I see something, the idea grows inside of me like a seed,” she says.
Flaherty’s inspiration from the land and her ability to use items she finds can be seen in many of her earrings. In her Inuksuk earrings, she uses caribou antler bone to create the Inuksuk shape and decorates around the outside with gold, soft pink and white beads. She also makes intricately detailed flower earrings, using bone to create the flower shape.
For Flaherty, her art practice is a source of strength and support, helping her to express her emotions and overcome intergenerational trauma from residential schools and the High Arctic relocation. “My way of expressing myself is to feel and spill all of my thoughts,” says Flaherty. “It really helps me as a person to be creative and to come up with everything that I make.” In support of residential school survivors, she created a pair of orange slippers in 2021 to raise funds for the Residential School Survivors Society, which she raffled off on her Instagram page.
Flahety acknowledges that there are many struggles and hardships in the North, which can be particularly troubling for the youth that live there. She hopes to inspire and encourage youth to express themselves and cope in healthy ways. “The more you create things, the bigger the ideas get. There is always someone out there willing to teach you. You can start at any time—it is never too late to start expressing your thoughts or your emotions,” says Flaherty.
This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.