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Old Blue Walrus Ivory Snowy Owl by Yupik Carver Adrian Ungott Gambell


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by Adrian Ungott of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from old marine mammal fossil walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Adrian Ungott.

This fine elegant miniature Snowy Owl was carved from a fossilized tusk of a walrus by Adrian Ungott of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Siberia. Their native Siberian Yup'ik language is spoken on both sides of the straits.

Adrian has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from the ivory tusk of a walrus and whalebone and trims them with baleen, a fibrous material from the mouth of Bowhead whales. Most ivory and whalebone is either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, and helps sustain their rich and proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Snowy Owl - This beautiful Snowy Owl or "Anipaghllak" in the Siberian Yup'ik language, is a fine example of Alaskan Native art. It was carved from an old fossil ivory tusk of a walrus. It was buried for centuries and took on a beautiful blue patina. The center of a tusk is a mottled golden yellow color; while the outer portions consist of a cream to pure white colored ivory, and all stained blue hence a variation in color and texture. The mottled center is very noticeable on the left side of the piece, a brown color.  while the blue color makes up the body. The colorations are very rich. The eyes are a double inlay of white ivory, and black baleen.

Blue fossil ivory is the rarest of ivory. Fossil ivory is found in the old village of Gambell, it was buried for centuries and took on a rich blue patina. Baleen is a fibrous material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it.

The Snowy Owl is found throughout the northern arctic tundra plains and builds its nest on high frost mounds or any small vantage point. The Snowy Owl is sacred in many northern cultures. It is symbolic of that which comes at night - the dream world, the world of the Shaman, things that are seen by reflected light, moonlight. The owl is considered very wise, wisdom gained through deep thought emanating from dreams and reflection. Owls and birds were spirit helpers, summoned by the shamans to bring gifts of the spirit. The presence of a bird during a ritual ceremony was considered a good sign. Frequently birds were carved from ivory into amulets and adorned those who summoned the spirits. Their brightly colored feathers also adorn clothing and were a source of food in the early spring.

Care of ivory includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Give it an occasional very light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

Adrian signed the bottom, which can be seen in reflected light. This unique piece would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations. It's a fine carving by a Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the world and would make a great gift.
It measures 7/8 inches high, 1/2 inch wide.

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