Inuit Art Blog

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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Inuit Art History

The history of Inuit Art deals directly with Inuit people and their interpretations of Inuit life, culture and the daily struggles necessary to survive. It is a celebration among the Inuit today, one which rejoices their ancestors and how they had to rely on such incredible skill, hardships and resourcefulness in order to preserve and pass on life from one generation to the next. Inuit art is used as a derivative of expressing these stories and their way of life, past and present.

The Canadian North is a vast region with only a handful of sparsely settled communities located throughout (basically the size of Australia with only 40,000 people). As such, it is only natural for the people in each community to have their own versions and interpretations of where Inuit art began and why. For the most part, during my time living in the North, I have come to the understanding from most Inuit people that Inuit carvings were first made primarily for the purpose of children's toys. and nothing more. These toys were very minimalist in nature. Like everything the Inuit made, these toys had a utilitarian purpose only and were used for the children's comfort and amusement.

In the 1830's when the Hudson's Bay company began establishing the fur trade, trading posts were part of their expansion. This is how Europeans came into contact with the Inuit. It was here that these little toy carvings took notice among the traders and to the amusement of the Inuit, were a real fascination.

Like many resourceful and inventive things the Inuit did, the Europeans thought these toys were amazing creations and an astute depiction and artifact of the Inuit people. To the Inuit, they were simply toys. None-the-less, fur traders would trade day-to-day items for these toy artifacts. It was a good trade for both sides in my opinion.

Inuit people utilized simple everyday objects to create beautiful art. The early Inuit Art includes materials such as animal hides, driftwood, stones, and animal bones. The Inuit used these materials to create workable pieces of majesty that surprised and astounded anyone who came in contact with it. Women made clothing and shoes from animal hides, stitching each piece together. They even created their own needles and thread for the sewing process from animal bones and sinew. Interestingly enough, many of the fashion pieces that were created many years ago are also used today. The Mukluk boot historically made of seal skin or caribou, has been modernized and can be found for sale. The anorak and parka are still made and sold by the Inuit artists today. Inuit people started many fashion trends.  

In regards to carved objects, many of the Inuit Art pieces were depicted to show day to day activities that the Inuit were involved in, such as hunting. Since the materials were made from common things that could be found within the communities, Inuit Art was a very important part of the culture. The knives within the Inuit culture were made from walrus ivory, which is a work of art on its own. The Inuit hunters carved much of their art by hand and they mostly used ivory and bone. 

During the Dorset and Pre-Dorset cultures, the Inuit Art consisted of carved birds, bears, walruses, and seals, as well as human figurines. Art in the form of small masks were also found from this era. The Inuit Art during the Ipiutak culture was one that will be remembered for its elaborate design and intricate handiwork. Some Inuit artwork that is found from this era includes geometric designs, along with anthropomorphic and animal designs. The Inuit Art from the Thule culture was one that consisted of tools and weapons that could be considered art and also could be considered things that were used on a day-to-day basis. Found were art relics such as utensils, combs, buttons, needle cases, cooking pots, cases, spears and harpoons, as well as a host of other products made to make life more appealing and interesting. The Inuit created art within their tools, pots and pans, etc. that were beautiful and ornate. The 16th century was the era when the Inuit started to barter with others in the area. They traded miniature ivory tools and things such as boats, musical instruments, rifles.

Since the year of 1945, Inuit Art has taken a turn upward. There is now a great attraction to Inuit carvings. Due to the influence of some notable people who have expressed appreciation for Inuit Art and also wanted new and more engaging pieces, the Inuit adopted new-age art techniques.

* Inuit Art toy image reference: Canadian Museum of Civilization
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Inuit Communities

We've added information on three Inuit communities: Sanikiluaq, Cape Dorset and Kimmirut. Most of our carvings come from Sanikiluaq and Cape Dorset, that is the reason why we chose to write about these two communities first. 

Check it out here.

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Owl by World Famous Pits Qimirpik

We are very fortunate to receive another gorgeous owl by World Famous Pitseolak Qimirpik

This one is very big, will sell fast. Order now.

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