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Walrus Ivory Arctic Fox Alaska Yupik Eskimo Art by Brandon Oseuk


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by Brandon Oseuk of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist Brandon Oseuk.

This stunning Arctic Fox was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Brandon Oseuk 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 Siberian Yup'ik 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.

Brandon has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. Much of the walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are 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.

Arctic Fox or “Kaviiq” in the Siberian Yup’ik language. Brandon carved this beautiful napping Arctic Fox from the ivory tusk of a walrus, and trimmed it with inlaid baleen eyes, nose and tip of its tail. The center of the tusk is a mottled golden tan color, while the outer portions consists of cream to pure white, hence the color variations. The golden tan mottled center can be seen very well on the upper part of the piece. The rich texture adds a sense of fur. The cream color surrounds in and the pure white is very noticable on the sides. The eyes, nose and tip of the tail are baleen, a fibrous material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Siberian Yup'ik Art.

In the old Yup'ik Eskimo culture the arctic fox was hunted as a source of warm fur for blankets and trim for parkas. The thick and fine hair provided protection from the harsh northern climate. When a fox was away from its den during the day they would curl up into warm little balls of fur to sneak a nap, as depicted by the carving.

Care of ivory and baleen 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 first, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil.

Brandon's last name and date (01/06) are on the bottom. This is a very nice piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a gift for someone with an eye for the unusual.

The piece measures 2 3/8 inches long, 3/4 inches high and 1 1/2 inches wide. This is a nicely carved piece and would make a great gift. The rich texture adds greatly to the piece.

Note there is a crack below the head between the mottled center and the cream colored ivory which can be seen in the photos.

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