Maxine Matilpi was born in Alert Bay in 1956. She spent her early life in her home village of Kalugwis. Kwak’wala is her first language, and she was formally educated within the traditional culture of her people. As a young girl, Maxine helped her mother and grandmother with blanket making projects. She sorted buttons by size and then gradually moved onto more complex tasks like cutting appliqué designs and border trim from red cloth. Since then, Maxine has created over 200 button blankets made from melton cloth and stroud wool, using the same materials her mother and grandmother used. The stroud is used for the applique designs stitched onto her button blankets.
The butterfly is a recurring symbol that appears on the borders of her blankets and aprons to represent one of her family crests. Other important crests from her family are the Kulus, Raven, Wolf and Killer Whale. Her partner, John Livingston, designed the crests and Maxine executed the appliqué.
Maxine and John have been partners since 1984. Throughout their time together, they worked in separate areas of their home in Victoria. Although John is in the spirit world, Maxine still opens up John’s workshop at their home to continue to help support Northwest Coast artists by providing space for them to carve. Maxine now helps her own daughter who is a fashion designer with her projects and continues to work in her studio making ceremonial blankets, aprons and tunics for her family. John’s life focused on Pacific Northwest Coast artforms and in his absence, Maxine continues to dedicate her textile talents, and shares her knowledge with her family and community to ensure the strength of her culture.
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