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Walrus Ivory Whale Baleen Bracelet by Yupik Carver Sarah Tocktoo


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by Sarah Tocktoo of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus ivory and whale baleen into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Sarah Tocktoo.

This beautiful bracelet was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus and baleen from a Bowhead whale by Sarah Tocktoo 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. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

Sarah has carved for many years and is a master carver. She carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. Most walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are 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 ancient culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

“Iiksiin“ is the Native Siberian Yup'ik word for bracelet. Sarah carved each white ivory piece from the tusk of a walrus. The center of the walrus tusk is a mottled light gold/cream color, while the outer portions are a cream to pure white, hence the color variations of the base. The mottled light gold center is visible on some of the pieces, the cream color makes up others and the pure white can be seen on some. She inlaid the white ivory with black round pieces of baleen. She also carved each black piece from baleen from a Bowhead Whale. Baleen is a black fibrous material in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. The black baleen was inlaid with white and old fossil tan ivory.

The Siberian Yup'ik people used many items for personal adornment and decoration; walrus ivory, baleen, tuffs of hair from seals, Polar Bears and Reindeer. This bracelet is about celebration and the abundance of the land and sea to provide for food, clothing, shelter and personal adornment. The Yup'ik people have lived in the Bering Straits for thousands of years. This harsh Arctic Region of is an extremely challenging area to live in. Yet there is an abundance to be had from the land and sea.

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, put it on a cloth or Q-tip, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, out pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

The bracelet is 2 1/2 inches in diameter and the white ivory base pieces are 1/2 inches by 3/4 inches.

This is a very unique bracelet, it would make a real unique gift for someone special or a present for yourself, from one of the most remote areas of the U.S. Blue ivory is very rare.

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