Inuit Art Blog

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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Why our Logo?

Over the years at Inuitgifts, we have streamlined, modernized and perfected our logo. Regardless of these many changes, one thing that has always stayed the same is the Loon with a red eye.

As it graces our website, packaging and all other branding that we use (including my coffee mug at home), the prominence of the Loon reminds us of our beginnings back in 2007. It was then that I met for the first time, world famous Inuit carver Jimmy Iqaluq in Sanikiluaq. As a bush pilot, I flew on a regular basis to this small community In the Hudson Bay. When I saw one of Jimmys loons at the CO-OP, I knew I had to meet him.

As I entered his house, a relationship with trust was immediately formed. He speaks very little english but we were still able to communicate. Because of the astonishment I felt for his Loons, and because it was one of the first significant pieces I purchased, I decided it was only natural to have it as our Logo.At Inuit gifts, the natural harmonious and graceful disposition of the Loon is how we like to treat our clients.  

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My personal favorite Inuit sculpture in the Gallery for this month

Although I insist on never buying sculptures unless there of AAA quality, there are still some pieces that grace their way to our gallery that are of exceptional quality and deserve extra distinction and attention. Here are some of them that I actually don't mind selling too fast.

This amazing Pitseolaq Qimirpik eagle is not only one of his larger pieces that he's attempted, but the detail and crispness of the lines are exquisitely done to perfection. You will not get too see many large eagles of this magnitude made by Pitseolak. For the most part, acquiring stone large enough is an extremely difficult feet on its own. Furthermore, it takes him exponentially longer in time to complete a piece of this size compared to some of the smaller pieces.The finish and high gloss effect of this piece radiates its immediate surroundings. It is definitely worthy of being in a museum and is certain to be praised by auctioneers sometime in the nearest future.



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Finally! A Lucassie Muskox!

To tell you the painstaking process I had to go through in order to acquire this exquisite muskox by Lucassie is like having your teeth pulled. It is no secret that getting master carvings from master carvers of the likes of Lucssie Ikkidluak, Pitseolak Qimirpik, Nuna Parr, and Ashevak Tunnellie is incredibly difficult. But in the end, it is all worth it. Having to butt in line, and fight tooth and nail against other galleries is what allowed me to acquire these two gorgeous Muskox by Lucassie last week.

I have honestly never had one of his Muskox for longer than two months. They are that hot on the market. Especially now with his age hitting 70.

What I really like about his Muskox is that they have combining elements of stone and antler with beautiful etched in eyes. This mixture of color, tone and material give his Muskox a beautiful intensity that makes them instantly noticeable. Lucassie takes a very long time just to carve each Muskox. He is one of Canada's premier artists and is why it is hard to find his work available to the public.

Click here to see Lucassie musk ox available

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Are base plaques appropriate for a carving as a corporate gift?

So I had a corporate client who bought a gorgeous 'Jimmy Iqaluq' carving from us today.

In the process of assisting him with the transaction, he asked me the style of base he should affix this carving to when presenting to his client.

I suggested that I personally preferred having no base. I find overall, a base draws the viewers attention away from the carving by distracting away to the other fixtures like the base or the written placards on it.

A carving is supposed to be close to its elements of nature and have an overall minimalist appearance to it. What draws audiences to Inuit carvings is their balance between tradition and abstract. The Inuit seem to have found the perfect balance with these two styles.

Having a carving set onto a base in my opinion takes away from this minimalist and abstract feel and adds a certain tackiness and unnecessary loudness to the piece.

If you are insistent on going with a base, than be certain not to have the carving glued on. Reason why is because most carvings have the signature located on the bottom of the piece which will be lost forevor should it be glued to a base.

Secondly, its nice for the client to always have that option of taking it off or on.They will be very appreciative of having that option.

In summary, I still feel no base is the best way to go when presenting a carving as a corporate gift.

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Avatak (Avataq)

Last week we received a very interesting question from a customer. He was looking at a Kayak by Jimmy Iqaluq and asked what was wrong with the seal in the back. Is it headless? What's that peg sticking out of it? Bryce decided to get more info from the source and contacted Jimmy's wife Jeenie in Sanikiluaq. 

So what you are seeing is what the Inuit call an 'Avatak'. It is like a floater (you would use for fishing), but instead it is attached to the end of a harpoon 'Nikisk'. It is made of wood or caribou antler, and helps the hunter to keep track of the seal.

The reason there is no head, is because like a fish, after the seal is caught, when the hunter is on his way home (like this kayak), he will 'clean' the seal, thus removing all the insides (guts, etc..). The Inuit also cut the head off and plug the opening hole of the seal with the wooden Avatak (the floater). Plugging it keeps the air inside.

So Bryce had to ask, where do they put the head? And Jeenie told that they simply eat it!

Regarding the actual carving, it is extremely beautiful. Jimmy is a word class Inuit artist who has been in countless exhibitions around the world. The proportions are amazing and the stone is refined to a very smooth finish. It is certainly a world class carving worthy of any centrepiece.

Besides carvings, you can also find avataq in Cape dorset Inuit prints. Here is one of the examples: 

Further reading about avataq:

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How to Sell Inuit Soapstone Carvings

Message to clients: We do not purchase carvings from private sellers. Our mandate is to support the Inuit carvers only. 

We have been getting a lot of questions lately like “how do I sell my Inuit art collection that I inherited?” or “I am downsizing and cannot bring my large collection of Inuit soapstone carvings with me, what would you recommend?” There are many ways to sell you soapstone sculptures, here are a few of them.

First and foremost, you absolutely need to get your piece appraised. To do this, you need to contact a certified Inuit art gallery in your local area. If you are not in a location where there is an Inuit art gallery, we offer appraisals via correspondence. Here is the link on our gallery website which will guide you through the entire process.

Why is this first step so crucial? Because it will give assertion to your potential buyer that the piece is authentic, is worth what you say its worth, and includes a certified document. Having your piece appraised is the same as having a carfax review when buying a pre-owned vehicle, or having an evaluator appraise a home in order for the bank to issue a mortgage.

Once this step is complete, then the second step is to try to find a buyer.

NOTE** WE DO BUY PIECES FROM TIME TO TIME. Please do not call us. Instead, send us pics, description, artist name and measurements with AN ASKING PRICE to

We will not entertain any offers without an asking price.

Also, you are contacting us, we are not contacting you. So to finalize any sale, you must send it to us first. Upon delivery and acceptance, we will pay you for the agreed upon amount.

Some other Inuit art galleries may be interested, however, they are usually accustomed to buying directly from the Inuit. However, if it is a rare and older piece, they may be interested and can offer a fair price for them.

Second, advertise your collection of Inuit sculptures on Kijiji and Craigslist. It won't cost you anything and you’ll get a world wide exposure. Try to take good pictures, it may even be worth going to a photographer and getting professional pictures done.  

Third, contact auction houses that sell Inuit art. Two major ones are Waddingtons; based in Toronto, and Walkers; based in Ottawa. Google them for contact info. They run Inuit art auctions two-three times a year and are constantly looking for pieces to take on consignment. Usually you would have to pay an insertion fee even if your soapstone carvings doesn’t sell, so it’s a bit of a risk.

Last, but not the least, go to your local antique shops and ask them if they would be willing to take a look at your collection and possibly buy it.

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