by John Apassingok 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 John Apassingok.
This stunning rafting Sea Otter was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus by John Apassingok 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.
John 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 ancient proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
Sea Otter or "Ari" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful piece was carved from the ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a rich mottled texture with a light gold/yellow color while the outer portions are smooth cream and pure white. The rich mottled light gold/yellow center of the tusk can be seen on the top of the head, along the side and rear. The outer cream makes up the body of the piece, and the pure white shows on his fat little belly and sides. The eyes and nose are inlaid baleen, a fibrous black material in the mouth of Bowhead whales, they strain food through it. It's in a floating or "rafting" position, just caught a razor clam, you can see it in his paws and he's about to have lunch.
In the Yup'ik culture otters were a source of very warm and soft fur, and was used to line garments, gloves and hats. They were nearly hunted to extinction by the Russian Fur Companies. Sea Otter was a prized fur by the Czar of Russia. Today they inhabit all the coastal areas of Alaska and their populations are at healthy levels.
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. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!
John's signature (Yup"ik name) "Uwetaq" is on the bottom. The piece measures 3 3/8 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high.
This is a very elegant piece and would make a great addition to a collection or a gift for someone with an eye for the unusual from one of the most remote areas of the U.S. It's a very beautiful piece.
Buy it now!