For our 2020 North Hats, we collaborated with Native artist and textile designer Maggie Thompson to explore the broader meaning of North. Thompson was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She specializes in fine art textiles and knitwear, and is the owner of Makwa Studio, a design space for weaving and knitting. Thompson’s work is inspired by her Ojibwe heritage and family history, and considers themes of authenticity, identity, and representation as well the broader Native American experience.
“When I began to explore conceptual art and talking about Native identity and my own family history, I started reacting to people’s ideas of what it means to be Native American,” Thompson says. She began to ask questions — about what it means to be Native American, and how that interacts with dominant narratives about Indigeneity. She translates these questions into her visual work.
“When you think of Native art, I feel like it’s kind of viewed as static or that it has to reference something historical or traditional,” Thompson says. “As a Native-identifying artist, it’s hard not to be put and put yourself in a box to create work that is very visually Native-looking.”
Thompson’s work aims to challenge expectations for Native art and design by answering the question of how to continue culture and history while also advancing it. Part of her answer is abstraction. Thompson takes patterns with historical or traditional significance and abstracts them, subverting expectations while still honoring the origins of the pattern. Additionally, she often works with new technology, such as laser cutting, 3D printing, and was recently certified in industrial knitting.
Thompson, who is Fond du Lac Ojibwe, says she aims to educate through her art while she also learns. “A lot of people ask if it’s appropriate to wear Native designs or verbiage of Indigenous languages,” Thompson says. “I think that supporting Indigenous artists shows cultural appreciation and not appropriation.”
You can find the full Askov Finlayson x Makwa Studio collaboration here.