by Billy Boy Soonagrook Jr. of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from old fossil marine mammal walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist William (Billy Boy) Soonagrook Jr.
This stunning miniature Bobcat was carved from a fossil walrus tusk by William (Billy Boy) Soonagrook Jr. of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. Their language is spoken on both the U.S. and Russian side of the straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia, one of the most remote areas of the U.S. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.
Billy has carved for many years and is a master carver. He is the youngest son of the Soonagrook family of carvers. His father William Sr., brothers Moses and Ladd are well known carvers in Alaska. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whale bone, and trims with baleen from Bowhead whales. His carvings are featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea, by Dale Kessler.
Much walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native Alaskan people on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
Fossil Walrus Ivory Bobcat Walrus or "Suumekiti" - which is wildcat in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful miniature Bobcat was carved from an old fossil walrus ivory tusk found in the old village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. It was buried for centuries and took on a rich tan patina. The center of the walrus tusk is a golden yellow rich mottled texture while the outer portions are a light tan and brown, hence color variations.
Care of walrus ivory includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!
Billy signed initials of his Yupik name on the bottom, KI (Kakiiyghatek). The piece measures 1 inch long, 1/2 inch high and 3/8 inches thick.
It's a very nice piece, excellent carving. It would make a great addition to a collection or a real unique gift for someone special from one of the most remote areas of the U.S.
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