From Quarry to Co-op: The Art of Stone
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