Labrador teacher shares Inuit culture with St. John's students through art

Trudy Flowers, an Inuit artist and teacher from Hopedale, has spent the last three weeks teaching students at St. Matthew's School about her culture and art.

Hopedale artist Trudy Flowers teaches students traditional crafting

A woman standing next to a student who is sitting on a table full of crafting items. The woman is showing the boy how to sew.
Inuk artist Trudy Flowers teaches a St. Matthew's student how to sew a doll. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Trudy Flowers, an Inuit artist and teacher from Hopedale, has spent the last three weeks buzzing around St. Matthew's School in St. John's giving lessons to their students about her culture and teaching them new skills.

Flowers told CBC News she's been teaching students from kindergarten to Grade 7, working mostly with sealskin.

"We've made some little Inuk dolls, we've make some ulus and inukshuks, and drums," Flowers said.  

It's all happening because Laun Shoemaker, a teacher and librarian at the school, applied for a $7,000 grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, and because Carino Processing, a South Dildo seal oil and textile company, donated about a dozen sealskin pelts to the program.

A girl in a classroom holding a shaddow box with a polar bear made from seal fur, and a figure of an inuit person wearing a seal jacket near a fire.
Grade 5 student Rosa Sequeira shows off the shadow box she made under Flowers' tutelage. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

"[I made] a shadow box, I think that's what it's called, and I used rabbit skin and seal fur," said Grade 5 student Rosa Sequeira. 

"We learned a lot about Labrador and her culture," said Rosa. 

Grade 6 student Chase O'Neill, who was learning how to sew a doll, is already applying the new skills Flowers taught him, but in a different way.

"I was outside playing and I scraped my knee and I had a hole in my pants and I was just like, 'Get me a needle and thread and I'll fix it,'" he said.

WATCH | Students share their art projects with the CBC's Heather Gillis:

Look what I made! Students show off art projects inspired by Inuit culture

6 months ago
Duration 3:02
The art room at St. Matthew’s School in St. John’s is filling up with Inuk dolls, ulus, inukshuks and drums. Grade 6 students are working with Inuk artist Trudy Flowers on a project that blends art, craft and culture. Click to see what they’ve made.

Shoemaker said he's pleased the students have connected with Flowers because it will make learning about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt day more impactful.

All of the art will be on display this week during parent-teacher interviews, and then the students can take their creations home.  

Miniature drums with polar bears in seal fur.
The St. Matthew's Grade 3 class made traditional Inuit drums. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

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Heather Gillis


Heather Gillis is a journalist based in St. John's. She has been working at CBC NL since March 2020, but has been reporting in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011. Heather has a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College and a bachelor of arts from Memorial University. You can reach her by email at