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Distinguished artist with ties to Sault unveils latest project

Ojibwe artist Patrick Hunter was chosen to create a fashionable and Indigenous-themed blanket as part of a sustainability project with The Campaign for Wool

A renowned Ojibwe artist with ties to the Sault has debuted a limited-edition wool blanket as part of The Campaign for Wool – a fashionable endeavour with the goal to raise awareness of the unique, natural, and sustainable benefits of wool.

Patrick Hunter, a Sault College graphic design graduate and acclaimed artist who now lives in Toronto, was asked to be part of this year’s project.

The campaign was launched by King Charles III in 2014 during a royal tour in Nova Scotia. Together with the department store company Holt Renfrew an artist was chosen to help develop a fashion item – in this case, a blanket.

Rather than producing the product in bulk, the campaign creates a limited amount of apparel so there’s no additional waste, which Hunter says is important to him.

“With this project, sustainability doesn’t have to look ugly,” he says. “The more that people buy into those brands where they’re making things more sustainably, the cheaper it will be. People are discovering that knowing where it comes from is really important.”

Made of merino wool, a natural fiber that’s thinner and softer than regular wool, Hunter’s double-sided blanket features an eagle feather along with a variety of unique patterns that were designs for some of his previous paintings.

“Eagle feathers mean a lot to Indigenous cultures in Canada,” he says. “If you find one in your life, it means you’re on the right path, you’ve gone through something hard, or you’ve done something of service to your community.”

Raised in Red Lake, Ont., Hunter has been part of numerous Indigenous artistic projects over the years, like having his art featured on Purolator’s ‘holiday box’ collection, to designing a pair of goalie masks for the Chicago Blackhawks, and even painting the mural on the back wall of Village Media’s headquarters in the Sault.

He was also in town recently as part of the 50th annual Algoma Fall Festival, where he led a pair of painting classes and demonstrations that also included an eagle feather.

Hunter had never made a blanket before The Campaign for Wool project, and says having the chance to share his culture while doing something positive for the environment is a win-win.

“It’s always such a privilege to be in this role as an artist and getting to share parts of my culture that I think the mainstream culture can identify with,” he says. “As Indigenous people, we’ve been excluded from the mainstream narrative unless it’s a tragic story like the residential schools. The goal of the work I’m doing is trying to infuse some positive messages and teachings of my culture into the mainstream communities so they’re aware of more than just our tragedy.”

Since debuting on Oct. 20, Hunter’s blankets have nearly sold out as only five remain in stock.

He had 60 blankets made in total – 25 for him, 25 for charity, and 10 that were given to Holt Renfrew to sell.

The blankets were produced shortly before King Charles III ascended the throne in September, so the tags on each of the blankets are believed to be some of the last items that include the monarch’s previous title as Prince of Wales.

While the history between Indigenous peoples and the royal family is a dark one, Hunter says that keeping the lines of communication open is imperative.

“Keeping the dialogue going is the best way forward,” he says. “I think aligning myself with places like the Blackhawks who have a problematic logo, or the royal family who has a problematic history, I can make people ask the question, ‘why does their artwork look like this?’ or ‘where does it come from?’ If people are asking questions, then it’s a good way towards reconciliation.”

Hunter recently purchased property just north of the Sault in Havilland where he's in the early stages of developing a gallery, workspace, and Airbnb for visitors to stay and enjoy his artwork.

“The Sault is a great place to fallback on,” he says. “People will be able to experience my artwork, blankets, and mugs, and then they can buy those items when they leave and it’ll ship right to them.”

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Alex Flood

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Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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