Art of Northern Canada


Saila, Pauta, 1964-1965, CD 1964/65-054 Photo © CMC

The Inuit have been expert carvers for generations, carving tools and weapons as well as small decorative items from stone, bone, ivory and wood. Today, carving in stone (usually serpentine) is most popular. However, the stone has to be quarried in places that are usually far from settlements, and then carried by hand, sled and boat back to town.

In 1957, James Houston, began an experiment in Cape Dorset with a group of Inuit artists. He opened a craft shop and they started making prints using stencils and relief carved into floor tiles. They turned out to be very popular when sent south for display.

James then went to Japan to study printmaking and used this knowledge to teach them to further develop their own style of carving into stone and making beautiful prints. This cooperative still exists and each years produces a collection of various types of prints.

Kenojuak Ashevak was one of the original artists, contributing to every Cape Dorset collection until her death in 2013. She was born in 1927, and lived in the traditional Inuit lifestyle growing up. Inuit art tells the story of the traditional Inuit way of life and of the Arctic birds, animals and sea mammals that they co-exist with. As well, their own myths and legends are woven into their work.

Activity: Try your own hand a printmaking with this lesson from Leah Jay Art.

More information: Mining in Nunavut; Dorset Fine Arts