Getting to Know Our Artists: West Baffin Eskimo Co-op

Brian recently embarked on the trip of a lifetime: a visit to Cape Dorset, Nunavut. (How many trips of a lifetime does one person get anyways?) After being delayed for one day due to poor weather conditions in Iqaluit, Brian made it to Cape Dorset and got to business meeting the artists and seeing how they work and live. 

Carving as it is known today is credited as being brought to Cape Dorset by James Houston. Houston, an artist himself, found himself in the baffin area in 1948 and was given a small carving as a gift upon arriving. During that trip, Houston gathered samples of sculptures and took them back to Montréal where it was recommended that Houston head back to the north and encourage the Inuit to produce carvings for sale. Thankfully, for art lovers around the world, Houston did just that. There is a much more detailed, very rich, and interesting history to the West Baffin Eskimo Co-Operative which can be found here. 

Now, to some artists:

Joanassie Manning

A peak at Joanassie Manning getting to work. First he starts by cutting a block of stone known as Serpentine into the rough shape he wants. Secondly he shapes the stone outside with a variety of power tools such as a disc grinder or Dremel tool. Next he moves the now sculpted carving indoors where he applies files to smooth out the edges. He then drills out the eye sockets and inserts eyes made of Caribou antler. Then he uses wet sandpaper to get the piece to the desired finish.  The last stage requires shoe polish to give the final carving the glossy finish. 

Nuna Parr

Nuna Parr is one of the most well known, established carvers in Cape Dorset. Born in 1949 he started carving in 1957 and his work is some of the most sought-after. He is a legendary figure in the village. Brian had the opportunity to visit him as he was preparing to begin a new carving.

Toonoo Sharky

Toonoo Sharky has become a rising star of Cape Dorset. Unlike any of his fellow carvers, his distinctive style is unique and instantly recognizable in the community. He has been supporting his family with his carvings from the time he was a teenager. 

What a trip! This summer we will have lots of carvings available in the gallery. Keep an eye on the website as we will be updating with specific artists as we receive new pieces!