Journey around the circumpolar world

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Alison McCreesh spent six months touring countries North of 60, completing art residencies in six of the eight circumpolar countries. Alongside her was her partner, Patrice, and their 18-month old son Riel.

McCreesh, who has been back in Yellowknife since May, is soon releasing her book describing the adventure – a mail-art based project about the trip.

Allison McCreesh signing a copy of her new book, Norths, at an exhibit featuring the art she made as she toured the circumpolar world. Bogdan Stanciu/NNSL photo

Norths: Two Suitcases and a Stroller Around the Circumpolar World, is compromised entirely of postcards McCreesh drew up and put them together to create a narrative of her time touring the North.

When she thought up the idea, she pre-sold the postcards for $20 each, getting people’s addresses and establishing a date for when she would write them a postcard.

“Back in October 2016, before we left, I had a big calendar out for the 180 days we would be gone and people could pay $20 dollars, pick a date and they would get the postcard from that day,” she said. “So it was kind of a fundraiser, and it was a way to get people interested and engaged. And everyone likes getting mail.”

McCreesh said she also created large, felted fibre wall hangings inspired by her time in other countries.

She said the cards were supposed to be completed in a leisurely fashion, but McCreesh found that when you’re working full-time at an art residency and the rest of your time is spent watching an energetic toddler, creating a book can be difficult.

“I figured I’d be waiting for the train and I’d sketch the waiting area and on the back I’d write a few words,” said McCreesh.

“Just something really casual like that, but of course when you’re sitting in a train station with an (18-month-old), you’re not sketching – you’re chasing your (18-month-old).”

She said part of what kicked off this journey was that her son could fly for free until he was two.

What better time to go on a six-month journey than when your child is 18-months-old?

“We did know we wanted to travel with the kid while he was little,” she said.

“The year before when the baby was six months we went to Guatemala for six weeks, but that was more of a backpacking type trip – more ambitious in a different kind of way.

“The circumpolar trip, even though it was long it didn’t seem as ambitious because it was all on similar latitude to Yellowknife and we knew that at each place we had a residency and an apartment and we were going to be set up there for a fairly extended period of time.”

McCreesh’s trip began in Scandinavia. Then from there, the couple travelled to Russia, Greenland, Iceland and then back home, where it felt like they had never left.

“We left mid October and we came back mid May, it was almost the same season again,” she said.

“A little bit more snow, but similar weather. We felt like we came back and picked up where we left off.”

The book will be going on sale mid-April.

McCreesh’s previous graphic novel, Ramshackle, won the NorthWords prize in 2016.

Originally from Chicoutimi, QC, McCreesh has called Yellowknife home since 2009.

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