by Ellis Oozeva 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 Ellis Oozeva.
This beautiful Puffin Pin was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by Ellis Oozeva 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 Siberia.
Ellis 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. Whalebone is 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 rich and proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
Puffin Pin - This fine ivory Puffin or "Pagrugaq" in the Siberian Yup'ik language was carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus, and inked to match the brightly colored puffin. The center of the tusk is a mottled cream color, while the outer portion consists of cream to white colored ivory, hence the color variations. The eyes are a double inlay of golden tan fossil ivory, and black baleen. Fossil ivory is found in the old village of Gambell, it was buried for centuries and took on a rich tan patina. Baleen is a fibrous material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. This is a fine example of Native Alaskan Yup'ik Art.
Puffins and birds were spirit helpers, summoned by the shamans to bring gifts of the spirit. Frequently puffins were carved from ivory into amulets and adorned those who summoned the spirits. The presence of a bird during a ritual ceremony was considered a good sign. Their brightly colored feathers also adorn clothing and the puffin was also a source of food in the early spring.
Care of ivory and baleen 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!
Ellis signed his name on the back and the date carved. It measures 2 7/8 inches long, about 1 inch wide and 3/8 inches thick. This unique piece would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations. It's a fine carving done by a Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the world and would make a great gift to yourself or someone else special. It would surely attract attention when worn. Great gift for a bird watcher!
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