Inuit Art Blog
Here's a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating a stone carving from start to finish. The video below shows Artist, George Arlook's process.
Video by: Greg Loew, Winnipeg, MB.
For our clients who wish to purchase one of George Arlook's beautiful transformations, please contact us ans we will show you.
Fifteen years ago, I was a young man full of intrigue and adventure. I had a yearning to travel the world and see new things. After completing my Bachelors degree in Commerce, I decided to follow my dream and embark on an adventure very few people get to experience - trekking off to one of Canada's last frontiers - The Canadian North.
Venturing off to the far North is not an easy task for any individual. One must go there with a purpose. Mine was to become a professional pilot. To this day, I am not exactly sure what came first, having the aspirations to fly professionally, or my craving to explore the North. Either or - both desires have allowed me to experience the thrill of a lifetime! I was elated and romanticized by the lifestyle of a bush pilot. The choice became a synonymous and ubiquitous one at that as my path was crystal clear.
Complimentary to my business and piloting skill sets, I exhibited a spirit for entrepreneurialism. Moreover, I was very creative and had a strong passion for the arts. In my soul – I am an artist. I compose music, I love to create, and am keenly aware of beautiful things all around me. Vice versa - as a child, I loved Monopoly, and was always fascinated with business. Combining these two elements ignited one of the greatest concepts to ever hit the Inuit art industry - "inuitsculptures.com"
- A place where passionate minded people can appreciate, acquire and admire beautiful pieces of Inuit art throughout the entire world without any geographical limitations.
By introducing Inuit art to an an online arena, inuitsculptures.com has been at the very forefront of bringing this rare and exquisite art medium to the 21st century. Before us, there has never been a venue like this before. This simple concept has done amazingly well and since its creation in 2006. Going forward, we continue to experience tremendous growth year over year. We have evolved from a small Ebay store to what is now arguably the largest Inuit art gallery in the world.
With the online gallery now in full stride, we are able to provide Inuit art on a consistent basis for the entire world to enjoy.
How it All Started
After completing my pilot license, I was able to find work with this Northern outfit based out of Kuujjuaq, QC called Air Inuit. From there, I branched out to another company, Air Labrador, and found myself on the Twin Otter. Moving to the North and experiencing it the way I did was so much more than I could have imagined. The adventure of going in and out of these small communities, landing on short strips through senseless winds, impenetrable fog, and howling blizzards gave me the pilotage skills that will last forever.
The experience of becoming a bush pilot, allowed me to live in the Canadian North for 5-6 years. Experiencing a new culture like the Inuit was an eye-opening experience.
What was so fascinating about them was how they did not worry about unequivocal things (like pot holes, taxes, politics etc...). They let time pass, and enjoyed the simple things.
Because of my time up there, I now have a deep connection with the Inuit.
I do not pity them, sympathies for them or take them lightly in terms of patronizing them. I treat them as equals, as my business associates, as my friends. And in the end, we are able to hammer out deals where everyone is a winner.
From my times in the North, I have learnt a great deal about this intriguingly ambiguous society. I have learnt that the Inuit are incredible hunters. Proficient fisherman. They are brave individuals filled with a spirit inside that resembles humility and humbleness. They are a respectful society and govern themselves on simple laws based on common sense. They are a highly resourceful society and know how to fix things well (if something breaks up north, like a pipe, only you can fix it. There is no plumber to call on). They are ingenuousness, and a have strong sense for community.
One day as I was loading the Twin Otter, and I came across some boxes that said "Inuit art - Museum of Toronto". Right there and then, a lightbulb went off in my head and a concept was born - to provide Inuit art online. I called my wife (Natalia) that evening and told her of this simple idea. She Loved it!
So with the little savings that I had, I decided to buy a few carvings from the locals in Sanikiluak. Among them was the famous Jimmy Iqaluq who I met for the first time. I randomly knocked on his door, and a humble wise and somewhat shy man came to the door. He did not know any english. We were able to communicate in sign language. It was here that I discovered for the first time, his world famous loons. My eyes popped out of my head. I could not believe how refined and exquisite they were.
I acquired one and to this day I continue to have it. It was Jimmy's precious loons that gave the needed niche for our gallery. They were greatly admired by collectors and were an instant hit in our gallery. The many sales of his loons gave our gallery the boost it needed to grow and expand. Today, our logo is his loon. This will never change.
Coupled with my wife's (Natalia) uncanny computer skills, and my artistic ability, we were able to create an amazing website for the world to enjoy. We wanted something that would be fast, simple to use, easy to search with and find things and most of all, something that would be focused on buying Inuit art with no nonsense. Many of our clients say how much they appreciate the online gallery. We have hundreds of clients who visit our New Arrivals section on a daily basis just to see what new pieces we received.
Today, we serve over five thousand clients in over 32 countries around the world. my wife (Natalia) and I have turned what was once a modest collection of Inuit art, into a mainstream, global enterprise. We now have three beautiful children and hopefully one day, they will continue our legacy.
The gallery will be holding an exhibition in honour of the late Jutai Toonoo.
His drawings and prints had an international presence on par with other master print makers like Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitseolak.
The gallery received some of his last works available and will be putting them on display. One of his master works - "Happy, 2013" was recently acquired by the gallery. It is one of his best works to date.
This is an original drawing created by Jutai Toonoo in 2013. (This a not a limited edition print, it is an original oil on paper drawing, only one was made by Jutai).
The coloration, subject matter, and texture of this drawing has resonated itself into a lasting image of memory. I made the assertion that these two drawings must be hung in our studio immediately.
This image exemplifies both Toonoos’s sense of being and the demons he struggled with on an everyday basis.
Jutai was born in an igloo on a cold December morning in 1959 just outside Cape Dorset. He recalls the traditional way of life of his family and learned by watching his father go about the daily tasks that enable the family to survive. He and his sister, renowned sculptor, Oviloo Tunnillie, learned about stone carving by watching their father. Jutai did his first carvings when he was seven years old.
By 1982, carving was his major source of income. One day he calculated his income and realized that he was making too little as a carver and decided to work in an office instead. Eventually he realized that sitting at a desk all day was not a life for him. In 1992 he resumed carving. In 1995 he also took his first jewellery and metalwork course and discovered a new artistic discipline.
Information courtesy of Nunavut Arctic College 1996.
Jutai Toonoo (1959 - 2015 )
Community: Cape Dorset
Jutai was an illustrator, printmaker and sculptor.
Jutai was born in an igloo on December 05,1959 just outside Cape Dorset.
Jutai Toonoo is a son of Inuit artists Sheojuk and Toonoo. He, along with his siblings—renowned sculptors Oviloo Tunnillie and Samonie Toonoo - learned to carve at a young age from his father and began his artistic career in the 1990s, beginning with sculpting and moving towards drawing and printmaking. Jutai became known for a bold art style that was representative of his emotional process. His works are dark and humorous, often focusing on religious themes or the social issues that concerned him within his community.
Collections: National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, McMichael Collection
To understand the servitude and influence legendary Axangayuk Shaa has on the world of Inuit art, one must first go back to when the industry came to prominence back in the 1960's. What was first a small settlement of a few hundred hunters and families - (at the time called Kingait), has since flourished into one of the most prominent regions for Inuit art.
Axangayuk Shaa is was one of those pioneering master carvers. He shares acclaids with the likes of other master artists like Nuna Parr, Jimmy Iqaluq, Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitseolak. Remarkably, at 82 years old, he is still carving today and is the master carver who is a living legend. His status revolves around his grandesque, large scale dancing walruses. They are truly remarkable pieces and have toured around the world in countless exhibitions.
Never has there been an artist quite like Axangayuk Shaa who continuously releases gorgeous pieces of art... and my heart literally skips a beat every single time.
His walruses are world famous because of their strong sense of dynamics, motion and beautiful proportions. “He captures the spirit and vigorous movement for a total effect…concentrating on special interaction, expressive qualities and overall form…his carvings are compact, robust, solid…with outward dynamic forms…”
The man is a living legend that puts him on the level of all other great carvers of centuries past. His ability to capture the essence and raw beauty of the mammal is greatly enhanced with his choices of brilliant colored stones. This renders his walrus into carvings that set apart from all other artists.
Currently, He lives in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island with his wife, Kilabuk Shaa, who is also a carver. Three of their sons, Pudalik, Qiatsuq and Qavavau Shaa are also carvers in Cape Dorset.
Axangayuk Shaa was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 2003. Academicians are elected to membership of the RCA on the basis of their significant body of work that has been recognized by their peers in the discipline of their choice for its excellence and innovation. Candidates are nominated and brought forward by seven RCA members in good standing for review by the Membership Committee, which is a multi-discipline body representing all regions of Canada.
1981 Cape Dorset Sculptors and Their Sculpture. The Inuit Art Collector. Mr. & Mrs. James F. Bacon. Manchester, Connecticut. USA
1981 The Jacqui and Morris Shumiatcher Collection
1980 Four Sculptors from Baffin Island. Upstairs Gallery. Winnipeg, Manitoba
1980 Waddington's Inuit Auction. Waddington Galleries. Toronto, Ontario
1980 1980 Canadian Eskimo Art: Carvings, Cape Dorset Prints with sculptures by Axangayu. Franz Bader Gallery. Washington, D.C. USA
1980 The Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art from the Art Gallery of Ontario. University of Guelph. Guelph, Ontario
1980 First Annual Collectors' Invitational Exhibition. Eskimo Art. San Fransico, California
1980 Collector's Choice. Waddington Galleries. Toronto, Ontario
1980 Cape Dorset. Winnipeg Art Gallery. Winnipeg, Manitoba
1979 Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterwork Exhibitors of the Canadian Arctic. Inuit Gallery of Vancouver. Vancouver, British Columbia
1979 Exhibition and Sale of Musk-Oxen & Bears. Cottage Craft Gifts & Fine Arts Ltd. Calgary, Alberta
1979 Die Kunst der Arktis. Villa Waldrich, Siegen, Germany. Inuit Galerie. Mannheim, West Germany
1977-1982 The Inuit Print. National Museum of Man, and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Ottawa, Ontario
1977 Kaka and Axangayuk. Gallery Shop. London Public Library. London, Ontario
1975 Cape Dorset/Selected Sculpture from the Collection of W.A.G.. Winnipeg Art Gallery. Winnipeg, Manitoba.
1974 Eskimo Art. Queens Museum. Flushing, New York, USA
1974 Eskimo Stone Sculpture, featuring Azangayuk, Johnniebo, Kenojuak. Arctic Circle. Los Angeles, California. USA
1974 Inuit Sculpture 1974. Lippel Gallery. Montreal, Quebec
1974 Cape Dorset Sculpture. Canadian Guild of Crafts Quebec. Montreal, Quebec
1972 Eskimo Fantastic Art. Gallery 111, School of Art. University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba.
1971-1973 Sculpture/Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Eskimo Arts Council. Ottawa, Ontario
1971 The Art of the Eskimo, Simon Fraser Gallery, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
1970 Mythology in Stone. Canadian Guild of Crafts Quebec. Montreal, Quebec
1969 Eskimo Sculpture '69. Robertson Galleries. Ottawa, Ontario
1967 Eskimo Sculpture. Winnipeg Art Gallery presented at the Manitoba Legislative Building. Winnipeg, Manitoba
1966 Major Eskimo Sculpture- Cape Dorset, Isaacs Gallery. Toronto, Ontario
1961 Cape Dorset Graphics
I used to live in the Canadian far North. My endeavors of becoming a pilot was what brought me there. One thing that I remember well is just how little sunlight there was in the winter time. So much so, that you could easily get depressed and suffer from cabin fever and isolation.
I remember those sombre 5AM flights, waking up, looking outside at a blizzard in the starkness of night. It would stay that way for an entire week before the sun would pop out again through the clouds.
Here is a wonderful video that really captures how the mood can sometimes be in the far North. It often gets ignored in favor of the nostalgia of the Inuit ancestors. But it is real and it is here and will never leave.
The video is about teen youth living in the remote community of Arviat. To escape the winter depression, the community organized a dance competition. It is an accurate depiction of life in the North and is how I experienced it.
Arviat is a very remote community. One of the industry's pioneering artists Lucy Tasseor comes from Arviat. They carve with a very condensed stone called steelite. It does not lend itself well to shaping and forming.
Her enigmatic face compositions have earned their way into the National Gallery of Canada.
Among subjects, mediums and styles, the "dancing bear" is one of the most prolific subjects in Inuit art. The dancing bear is the most prevalent subject made by artists and is also one of the most challenging to achieve.
It is this delicate balance, the movement and grace that made the dancing bear one of the most recognized inuit art subjects internationally.
The Dancing bear exemplifies and attests to the true beauty and craftsmanship of Inuit art. It was originally inspired in the 1960's from the small Inuit community Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Its concept signifies the transformation between shaman and spirit helper; arctic animals adopting naturalistic or humorous human-like poses (e.g. dancing bears, and Sedna - the sea goddess),
Since its introduction, it is understood that the dancing bear carving requires a much elevated skill set by the artist. This is because the entire stone has to be balanced on one leg of the bear without toppling over. This balancing act in carving is not a project for the beginning carver. Today, it is one of the most sought after subjects in Inuit art.
One of the first artists who conceived the idea of dancing bear was the late Palta Sala. Although basic in form, his dancing bears were the foundation and origins of this enigmatic subject we see today.
The sculptures from this older generation not only have a basic upright, singular orientation, they are also characterized by a unified, tight composition and form. The works tend to be solid and uniformly stone, rather than airy sculptures, punctuated by areas of space. The works rely on the single stone mass with very little play on the positive/negative space around or within the sculpture.
Then their came Nuna Parr. He is 72 years old and is by far, the most famous Inuit artist worldwide. His punctuation and achievements consist of formalizing a dancing bear, but in a superfluidity in dynamic and movement. This mastery of balance and form is also conducted in the lieu of gardenesque mass. Nuna Parr's bears are known to be large, flamboyant and majestic. They are construed in such a way that they are always the centre stage of any space.
New artists from today's generation have often worked under Nuna's apprenticeship. Noah Kelly, Joannie Ragee, Ashevak Adla are all top artists in today's Inuit art scene. This is both at a national and international level.
If you would like to own a dancing bear, please visit us at inuitsculptures.com, or check out our offerings below. You will see some achievements that will absolutely inspire you.
As the "About Us" section states, I am a pilot. I began my career as a bush pilot in the far North. I am not sure which came first... my fascination of the Inuit which lead me to this profession; or the profession itself which led to my relocation to the far North. Either way, it was an experience of a lifetime. Both in terms of pure joy and happiness, to absolute misery and depression. Becoming immersed in a completely different culture which is still considered the last frontier of America is something every young man should experience. It goes well beyond the "european backpacking trip". Living somewhere is a completely different experience from just visiting.
My experiences up there for those five years was a tremendous one. I learnt a great deal about other cultures and was particularly fascinated with the Inuit way of life. Their language is completely different. Their food is completely different. Their way of life is completely different. They are what I consider to be a true distinct society within Canada and North America.
Here is a wonderful documentary that exhibits the way of life of the Inuit today. It is an award winning documentary and I found it to be an exact rendition of my own experiences up their.
I recently did an appraisal for a client. His intent was to eventually sell the appraised piece. In doing so, he had little knowledge on how to maximize the return on his newly appraised piece.
This is when I realized, that my professional photography skills could be a huge asset to him. Hence, for a nominal fee. I offered to take professional quality photos of his appraised piece. He agreed and in doing so, this is what we achieved:
It took about two weeks for our client to not only sell his appraised piece, but they received 20% more than the value it was appraised for.
It is no secret that positioning and promotion are key elements to selling. This holds true for real estate, vacation resorts, retail goods and life in general. Afterall, appearances matter.
When you have an enigmatic high quality photo like the one above, there is little doubt that you will achieve the value you expect for your piece. Moreover, many clients will simply want a gorgeous photo to compliment their collection.
If you would like professional quality photos of your cherished Inuit art work, contact us and we will tell you how to proceed. Our fee for each photo set is $200 plus shipping. You will be required to send us your piece. We offer an additional 40% off if you package this with our appraisal services.
For further information, please review our appraisal section, or contact us as 1 800 457-8110.
We will review with you on how to proceed with the full appraisal and photography of your cherished art work.
This is a question many collectors ask, especially ones who are new to the Inuit art scene.
In most case, the best way to answer this question is … “Look for the Igloo tag.”
THE IGLOO TAG GUARANTEES THAT YOUR INUIT CRAFT IS AUTHENTIC!
IT CERTIFIES THE ARTWORK HAS BEEN
HAND MADE BY CANADIAN ABORIGINAL ARTISTS
The Government of Canada registered the symbol of the Igloo
as a trademark to identify Inuit artwork as authentic
and to protect Inuit artists and buyers.
This tag can only be attached to original Inuit
sculptures and art from northern Canada.
Artwork marketed by Northern Images bears this tag.
It’s sometimes confusing, particularly for new collectors, to determine what is genuine Inuit art and what is not. Some stores and gift shops sell souvenir “carvings” made of plastic, ceramic or stone, that have been mass-produced. These are NOT authentic Inuit art pieces from Canada's Arctic.
How can you tell the difference?
- If there are several pieces that look EXACTLY alike . . .
- If a piece has a cute, conventional look similar to a ceramic figurine . . .
- If a piece has marks made from the moulding process . . .
- If a piece is priced below $50 . . .
Check the base of the sculpture for a signature. Most carvers sign and date their work, either in Inuktitut syllabics or Roman orthography. Instead of a signature, older sculptures may have a number preceded by an ‘E’ or a ‘W’. These are Disc Numbers, a discarded form of identification the Canadian government imposed on Inuit individuals in the past.
What does the Igloo Tag tell people?
The Nuna Tag supplies specific, individual details about each work of Nunavut art or craft.
1. The Government of Nunavut’s guarantee that the piece was hand made by a Nunavut artist.
2. The name of the artist who created the piece, written by the artist or retailer. It may appear in Inuktitut syllabics — the language of Nunavut Inuit.
3. The name of the community where the artist lives. Many communities have changed their official names from English to Inuktitut. The map in this brochure uses the current official names of the communities.
4. The year the work of art or craft was created.
5. A description of the work by subject and materials: for example, “Drum dancer – stone and antler.”
The information on the Nuna Tag enhances the value of the Nunavut arts and crafts you purchase by guaranteeing their provenance. Keep your Nuna Tags in a safe place for easy reference and proof of origin.
I recently sold another narwhal tusk to a client. Of course they were absolutely thrilled with it, but wanted to know the best way to display it.
For your information - This is the WRONG way to display them:
We had a client in the past who told us they mounted it on their wall. They had it placed onto a red cherry wood base with two hooks.
It seemed interesting enough, but to be honest, I find in doing so makes them look like a trophy display hunters use to hang up onto their cabin walls.
On the contrary, a narwhal tusk is sleek, avant garde, exotic and modern looking and deserves to be showcased as such. (at least that's how I see them). For the longest time, we ourselves did not fully know what the best way to showcase them was.
That was up until I met my client and friend in Vancouver. She LOVES narwhal tusks and she had such a simple solution that really stood out from anything else I have ever seen. Picture below:
This is her gorgeous tusk overlooking beautiful Vancouver. When I went to her highrise condo and saw this... I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!!
This is the quintessential way to display modern art. She used a simple wine holder. So minimalist, so easy, and the definition of designer perfection. The wine holder does exactly what it is supposed to do (display the tusk). It does not compete with it. It does not look too flashy, nor is it tacky and ugly. It does not distract the attention of the viewer. Instead, it allows the tusk to draw the attention of the viewer all on its own.
It is the definition of minimalism and is by far the best way I have ever seen a tusk displayed. The wine holder costs less then 40 bucks.
You can get them, or others from amazon. Here is the link.
On that note, if you ever want to make an impression in your home or office, a narwhal tusk will be one of the coolest art pieces you will ever own. It will definitely intrigue your audience. It will be something that everyone will remember about your space. Having one will differ you from everyone else, drumming to the beat of your own path. And at the end of the day, this is what great art is supposed to do.
We only receive a few narwhal tusks a year, if you are interested in purchasing one, click here.