From Quarry to Co-op: The Art of Stone

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - John Geoghe­gan

The IAQ is pleased to present this port­fo­lio show­cas­ing the stages of stone carv­ing, from the col­lec­tion of ma­te­rial to the sale of a piece. Il­lus­trated with draw­ings and sculp­tures, the vi­su­als are com­pli­mented with short artist in­ter­views.

Artists of­ten take in­spi­ra­tion from their own lives and trans­late these events and ac­tions into their work.

In the past artists, in­clud­ing Pitseolak Ashoona, RCA (1904-1983), En­nut­siak (1896-1967) and count­less oth­ers, pro­vided in­sight into tra­di­tional life and cul­ture through their carv­ings and draw­ings. To­day, artists con­tinue this doc­u­men­tary im­pulse, but in­stead of tra­di­tional scenes of mi­gra­tion and child­birth, con­tem­po­rary artists are creat­ing work about watch­ing tele­vi­sion and fix­ing ski­doos. Since the late 1940s the pro­duc­tion of com­mer­cial sculp­ture has flour­ished in many com­mu­ni­ties across the Cana­dian Arc­tic, so it is not sur­pris­ing, that this in­dus­try has in­spired a body of art­work about stone carv­ing.

Through a se­lec­tion of draw­ings and sculp­ture by var­i­ous artists through­out the North, this port­fo­lio show­cases the step-by-step process of how carv­ings are made: from the har­vest­ing of stone at a quarry, the carv­ing, sand­ing and pol­ish­ing of the carv­ings and, fi­nally, to the sale of works by artists to lo­cal co-ops for dis­tri­bu­tion. To com­pli­ment this port­fo­lio, in­ter­views were con­ducted with stone carvers Ning Ashoona and Pitseolak Qimir­pik of Kin­ngait (Cape Dorset), Noah Natakok of Iqaluit and Koochy Kolola of Kim­mirut.


“We get the stone by boat. Peo­ple sell it to the store and we buy it for about $2 per pound. I carry the stone home or take a taxi.”

— Pitseolak Qimir­pik

“I don’t quarry the stone my­self, I buy it from the co-op. Peo­ple bring in stone be­tween July and Oc­to­ber by boat. If the stone is small enough to carry, I bring it home my­self. But if I buy a big stone, I will get some­one to help me and bring it by snow­mo­bile in the win­ter or a car or ATV in the sum­mer.”

— Ning Ashoona

“Some­times I buy stone, but most of the time I get it from Qui­jaqna, where my father and early carvers went for their stone. I bring it back to where I carve by snow­mo­bile and man­power.” — Koochy Kolola

“I started carv­ing in Repulse Bay when I was living there. There was a place close to town and the stone was free, so I would pick up stone for carv­ing there.

I will look at a stone for 10 min­utes or so and if it has a shape, like a hu­man or an­i­mal, then I know what to make with it.” — Noah Natakok


“I carve out­side, be­side my house, be­cause there is a lot of dust. I carve all by my­self, but some­times I get help sand­ing or pol­ish­ing. I lis­ten to the lo­cal ra­dio or mu­sic when I carve.” — Pitseolak Qimir­pik

“I start early in the morn­ing at 7 or 8 am. I carve and do grind­ing out­side, but use my Dremel on the porch, which I heat up with a Coleman stove.” – Noah Natakok

“I carve out­side my house, in a small shack. I usu­ally do the grind­ing and ax­ing out­side to get the rough shape of the carv­ing. Once it is roughed out, I go inside to file and pol­ish. I lis­ten to the ra­dio and mu­sic when I’m inside.” — Ning Ashoona


“If my carv­ings are small, I can some­times bring a few to the co-op to sell, but if they are large, I bring [them in] one at a time. I feel good af­ter I’ve sold a carv­ing. Some­times I feel that I am not paid enough for my work, but most of the time I am happy. I like to carve seals and loons the best.” — Ning Ashoona

“I used to sell carv­ings to the co-op every week, but now I make one or two a year as I’m hunt­ing more and do­ing projects for the peo­ple of Kim­mirut. I’ve bought files and sand pa­per with the money I’ve made from carv­ing, be­cause it’s bet­ter to have new tools that work bet­ter. When you sell a carv­ing, you feel alive, like you made art out of a rock that God put there for some­one to make some­thing with.” — Koochy Kolola

In­ter­views with Ashoona and Qimir­pik took place by tele­phone on Jan­uary 10, 2017, with Joemie Tak­paungi act­ing as a trans­la­tor for Ashoona. Natakok was in­ter­viewed over Face­book Mes­sen­ger on Jan­uary 9 and Fe­bru­ary 3, 2017. Kolola re­sponded via email on Fe­bru­ary 16, 2017.

These in­ter­views have been edited for clar­ity and con­densed.

Kel­ly­pa­lik Qimir­pik (b. 1948 Kin­ngait) Man Car­ry­ing Stone 2010 Ser­pen­ti­nite and baleen 31.8 x 15.2 x 12.7 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers Photo Erin Yunes, Ab­bott Imag­ing

Pud­loo Sa­mayualie (b. 1977 Kin­ngait) COM­PO­SI­TION (THE QUARRY) 2015 Coloured pen­cil and ink 58.4 x 38.1 cm Cour­tesy Fe­he­ley Fine Arts All works by Kin­ngait artists re­pro­duced with per­mis­sion of Dorset Fine Arts Kelly Etid­loie (b. 1966 Kin­ngait) Man...

Oviloo Tun­nil­lie (1949-2014 Kin­ngait) Self­Por­trait with Carv­ing Stone 1998 Ser­pen­ti­nite 53 x 37.5 x 33.3 cm Cour­tesy Win­nipeg Art Gallery Photo Ernest Mayer

Uniden­ti­fied Artist Man with Stone 2009 Whale­bone 17.8 x 15.2 x 12.7 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers Photo Erin Yunes, Ab­bott Imag­ing

Ning Ashoona (b. 1979 Kin­ngait) Agiaguti (Tool for fil­ing carv­ings) 2011 Ser­pen­ti­nite and rub­ber wire 5.1 x 33 x 5.1 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Guild of Crafts

Pitseolak Qimir­pik (b. 1986 Kin­ngait) Carver 2011 Ser­pen­ti­nite 24.1 x 8.9 x 12.7 cm Cour­tesy Coastal Peo­ples Fine Arts Gallery

Pitseolak Qimir­pik Carver 2004 Ser­pen­ti­nite 12.7 x 17.8 x 15.2 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers Photo Erin Yunes, Ab­bott Imag­ing

Koochy Kolola (b. 1977 Kim­mirut) Man Carv­ing 2006 Ser­pen­ti­nite 24.1 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers Photo Erin Yunes, Ab­bott Imag­ing

Johnny Pootoo­gook (b. 1970 Kin­ngait) The Carver 2011 Graphite, coloured pen­cil and ink 65 x 49.9 cm © Dorset Fine Arts Oviloo Tun­nil­lie Woman Carv­ing Stone 2008 Ser­pen­ti­nite 44.4 x 26.7 x 11.4 cm Cour­tesy Win­nipeg Art Gallery Photo Ernest...

Kanang­i­nak Pootoo­gook (1935-2010 Kin­ngait) Tools 2006 Ink and coloured pen­cil 66.4 x 50.8 cm Cour­tesy Fe­he­ley Fine Arts

Noah Natakok (b. 1967 Iqaluit) Woman with Carv­ing 2009 Stone and ivory 31.75 x 14 x 12.7 cm Cour­tesy Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers Photo Erin Yunes, Ab­bott Imag­ing

Shuvinai Ashoona (b. 1961 Kin­ngait) Sell­ing Sculp­ture 2012 Ink and coloured pen­cil 88.9 x 127 cm © Dorset Fine Arts

Tim Pit­si­u­lak (1967-2016 Kin­ngait) Carver’s In­come 2009 Ink and coloured pen­cil 76 x 56 cm Cour­tesy National Gallery of Canada

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