Ingrid Brooks, of Indianbrook, Nova Scotia, is a recognized artist, dancer, and fashion designer in the Maritimes. She is currently living in Indian Island First Nation, New Brunswick and is a self-made entrepreneur who owns ‘Mi’kmaq Designs’ and specializes in Mi’kmaq Porcupine Quill Art.
“I am an artist because I love to do art and represent my people,” explains Ingrid. “I have always been an artist. In grade 1 I had a teacher named Alice Syliboy. She was teaching us Native Arts. She noticed how fast I was at assembling the crafts. I remember her words like yesterday. She said ‘I have never seen a child do a craft that fast. This is your gift in life. Don’t forget it.’ Her words stay with me to this day.”
Ingrid attended the New Brunswick College of Art & Design in Fredericton to enhance her natural talent. She completed the Basketry course in 1993 and a Quill Art course in 1999. Art, craft, and designing has always been a part of her life.
“I also have informal training with my great aunt Anne Barlow,” says Ingrid. “She is a professional seamstress and has worked for clothing factories in Connecticut.”
Ingrid’s passion lies with the education, spiritual and cultural issues in the First Nation communities. “Quill work is a dying art form” Ingrid states. “Today, only a handful of people carry on this intricate art form. I refuse to let this become a cultural extinction. All of my art is influenced by my culture, by the old designs my ancestors used. I love looking at old photos and seeing the designs they used. There is a story behind each design, symbol and color.”
Ingrid has built a reputation as a quality designer and has found her specialty in Mi’kmaq Porcupine Quill Art. The technique that she uses for Quill Art is an ancient form. Ingrid explains, “Mi’kmaqs have been referred to as the ‘Porcupine People’ because of the intricate and elaborate quill work that has been practiced by them since time immemorial. I was fortune to find an excellent teacher who was trained by an elder. I use all natural supplies from mother earth like birch bark, porcupine quills and sweet grass.”
Ingrid’s work extends much further than Quill art. She does work on Pow Wow regalias, jingle dresses, fancy shawls, and grass regalias. On top of this, she also does beadwork fashions, evening gowns, jackets, skirts, dresses, dress shirts and more. Ingrid has done fashion shows with the Nova Scotia Native Womens Association and St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick. Last year Ingrid was invited to the National Fashion Show and another in Moncton. She is also working on a Step by Step tutorial book on Quill Art and would like for it to be used in classroom settings.
“The best part of being an artist is the seeing the look in my customer’s eyes. Their excitement of bringing their vision to reality,” she expresses. Ingrid Brooks is successful at what she does because of what drives her. “I love representing my people” she says. “Showing the world who we are and sharing our stories through art.”
Ingrid has some advice for other Aboriginal artists. “You are only on this earth for so long. Do what makes you happy. Don’t ever quit what you love to do. Our ancestors are around us at all times guiding us. Listen to your intuition and pass on our teachings. The circle is always growing and to get things ready for the next generation… leave your footprint in the world.”