Inuit Art Blog

Featured Artist - Legendary Axangayuk Shaa

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.

His exquisite dancing walrus has several parallels in the Cape Dorset stone carving style; they demonstrates the truly extraordinary carving bravura of the 82 year old Axangayuk Shaa, who began carving at the tender age of 17. Not only is this work exceptional in its degree of openwork carving and detail, it is also highly expressive and energetic.

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.
Browse our Axangauyk Shaa offerings here

"A grandson of the carver Kiakshuk and the only child of artists Paunichea and Munamee Davidee, Aqjangajuk began carving at the age of seventeen. He participated in the early drawing projects of Cape Dorset but realized his strengths lay in sculpture and did not draw after 1970. Only one graphic by him, Wounded Caribou, was ever released, in the 1961 Cape Dorset annual print collection. His work was in the famous 1971-73 touring exhibition "Sculpture/Inuit. Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic". Since 1970, he has had 11 solo exhibitions, as well as appearing in many group shows, and his work is in many major museum collections, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." - from "Cape Dorset Sculpture", Douglas & McIntyre, 2005

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 The Inuit Sea Goddess. Surrey Art Gallery. Vancouver, British Columbia
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
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Inuit Youth of Arviat

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.

Dancing Towards The Light

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.


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The Dancing Bear 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.

Inuit Dancing BearOne 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.


Nuna Parr dancing bearThen 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, or check out our offerings below. You will see some achievements that will absolutely inspire you.














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Life in the North - What its like for the Inuit of today

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.

Life in the NorthMy 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.

Living With Giants

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Appraisals - Photography services

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.


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How to display your Narwhal Tusk

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:

narwhal tusk display

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.

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Narwhal Tusks


Click here to see them.

At Inuit Gifts Inc. we acquire several Narwhal Tusks very year that we like to offer to our clients. I recently had a client who purchased one this week and his wife had a simple yet frequent enough question before committing to the purchase. The question was:

"Are Narhwal only hunted for the tusks; Are they at all endangered?"

The simple answer to these two questions is NO - and let me explain.

The first NO refers to weather they are caught for the sole purpose of their tusks. Just to shed some light on Inuit culture and the villages they live in, it is a very communal and aggregate lifestyle in the North. There ways of life, traditions and willingness to share with one another is something that has been passed down by their ancestors. This communal form of living where everyone is equal, shares and takes care of one another is a way of living that has allowed them to survive the extreme elements of the North for hundreds of generations.

When a caribou, polar bear, muskox or narwhal are caught, the Inuit will bring it back to the community centre in their village. Here the women of the village will gather around with their ULU knives, clean the whale, cut out the meat and the entire community will join around and have a feast (raw meat I might add... lol... at least today's generation dip it in soya sauce... lol).

The tusks will then be taken by the hunter to the local marine wildlife officer where he will get it tagged and registered. From there, once it is cleaned, he will bring it to the co-op, which is then distributed to a gallery like mine.

Summary - these narwhals are hunted for their meat (as was by their ancestors), and the tusks are taken out as an afterthought. The same is true for walrus tusks, caribou antlers and polar bear hides. They are all hunted primarily for their food and is the main source of nourishment the Inuit survive from. The resourceful people that they are, they like to use every bit of the animal for other various things like clothing, pottery, and artistry. 

The second part of the question - are they endangered? The answer again is NO, but only because they are strictly monitored and regulated by the Canadian government. These narwhals are strictly enforced and accounted for by the department on Marine Mammal Wildlife Canada

On each tusk, there is a tag that is steel wired through (impossible to remove). This tag was issued by the local marine wildlife officer which is present in each town. Once the tusks are taken out, the hunter brings it to the local office, the tag is issued and wired into the tusk. Every year, they count the population and enforce how many are allowed to be caught by the Inuit. Last year it was 140. That means, only 140 narwhals were allowed to be hunted. Each community is given a strict quota. 

If it were left up to the Chinese, yes these Narwhals would be extinct by now (Like the Panda). Luckily for the Narwhal, their migrating patterns are in Canadian arctic waters, resulting in the whales being well monitored, and under very strict regulations.

Should there be NO tag attached to a tusk, it has ZERO value as there is no way for it to be sold on the open market. If a gallery is caught selling, transporting or buying a tusk without a tag, there are major major penalties ($100,000 +).
In short, you can buy one with confidence knowing that everything is well regulated, the animals were treated in a  human way, and hunted in a very traditional manner the same way the Inuit have been doing it for 1000's of years. It is their way of life and the only way they can survive the North. Click here to purchase a Narwhal tusk from our website.
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Is there such thing as a "fake" carving?

From time-to-time, we get asked by our clients how authentic these carvings are and if there are such a thing as a fake carving (ie. from China).

To address these concerns, for the most part the answer is NO. Inuit carvings are all unique hand crafted pieces made by the Inuit. It is such a niche industry - and a small one at that, that it is not worth the time nor efforts for countries of mass production (like China) to bother with. Watches, phones, electronics, brand name hand bags of course is another story.

It is important that you purchase your Inuit art from an Inuit Art Foundation licensed art gallery. You will know that they are licensed when you see that they carry an Igloo Tag with their gallery number at the corner.

At our Inuit Art Foundation license number is 15. You can find this number on the bottom right corner of the Igloo Tag.

Igloo TagIt is very important that your carving has this certificate. This tag eliminates all of the guessing work as to weather the artwork is authentic or not.

The number at the corner classifies the gallery.

With this in mind, there are still some sculptures that resemble Inuit carvings that ARE mass produced which are tailored more for the "gift shop market".

These carvings include:

Gift Shop "Star Carved" Polar Miniature Polar Bears
found in many Canadian Parks Wildlife Gift shops.

"Dimu" Carvings"
Dimu pieces were sold in the 1960's & 70's at a much more affordable price point compared to original handcrafted pieces by the Inuit. Its core audience were mainly tourists visiting gift shops. Each piece is signed with "Dimu" so it is easy to notice.

DIMU is actually the signature of a German-Canadian artist named DIETER MUCKENHEIM. The works are somewhat mysterious and quite sparse, however they were his own original design. They are non-inuit sculpture. His pieces are usually dated to the in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.


"Abbott Canada"
Abbott Canada are hand made carvings made in Canada. These carvings are not handmade. They are mass produced. They are not classified as Inuit art, thus are worth substantially less. The word "Abbott Canada" will be marked on the carving.

This would be classified as gift ware that you would find in a boutique.

"Wolf Original carvings"

These are carving made out of soapstone. They are not carved by Inuit artists. Usually they are marked on the bottom as "wolf original"

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The Igloo Tag

If you're new to Inuit art, you're probably wondering what this little card attached to each carving is. This is called an Igloo tag. It is a certificate proving the authenticity of each piece. Inside each tag, the name of the artist, community and item number are recorded. Each carving that is brought into the local co-op by the artist, is assigned a number which is written on the card, and then registered with the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Here is further reading on the origins of the Igloo Tag.


"The Canadian government issued disc numbers to the Inuit starting in the 1940s and continued into the 1970s. They were imprinted on fibre discs and were to be worn around the neck. The disc numbers were to be used in place of names. The numbers were preceded by an E or W indicating if the wearer came from the Eastern or Western Arctic. The next single or double digit stood for where the wearer came from. The last one to four numbers were particular to that person. The numbering system was used in what is now the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is these disc numbers that Inuit artists from that time period inscribe on the bottoms of their sculptures.

In the early 70's the disc number was replaced with the artist's name. Consequently, this piece dates prior to that period".
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Carving Repair / Restoration

Inuit art is an investment - pure and simple. There are not too many things in life that you can say that about. A beautiful Inuit carving is a treasure that you can admire and cherish, while knowing at the same time it will appreciate in value. Inuit art is one of those rare commodities on this planet that does that. No matter which piece you own, chances are, if you hold onto it for 10 - 20 years, it will at the very least double in value.

Many of our clients have pieces they Love, and then experience that unfortunate mishap where the carving falls off a table and breaks. Life happens, we understand that, and this is why I am writing this article. We are here to rectify your situation and make your carving look as good as new again.

On that narrative, you would be amazed to see what we are able to do with your broken pieces. Pieces that you would never imagine to be repairable, can be fully restored to perfection where you will not even remember or see where it was broken to begin with.

For minor repairs, such as scratches or chips, this is something we can repair in-house. It is a relatively easy fix. Costs associated with this are $150 - $350.

For larger repairs (such as a broken or a shattered foot), we are good friends with this one particular Inuit artist in the North who is beyond amazing at restoring and repairing carvings. I have never seen anyone do what he does. He has worked miracles for our clients. I have had clients hand me over $15,000 Nuna Parr 80 Lbs bear - completely shattered - surprised to see that their piece was returned completely new. They couldn't even see where the cracks or broken pieces were. He is able to repair your broken piece to a better than new state. This equally holds true for older pieces, newer pieces, small trinkets or $20,000 masterpieces. This guy is absolutely incredible when it come to repairs and restoration. 

Below are some typical examples and approximate price ranges of what you can expect:.

Typically, small scratches, blemishes or clean chips that can be done in-house: $150 - $350.

Broken Carving  



Accessory replacements such as tusks from a walrus or a baton from a hunters hand that went missing are easy to replace: $250


Pieces that have shattered or broken pieces: $375 and up


Pieces that need reconstruction, where a part of the stone is missing: $700 and up.

Repairs generally take anywhere from one week to a month to complete. 

Please contact us with your broken piece and we will give you an estimate of how much it should cost at 1 800 457-8110 or at


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