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Walrus Ivory Snowy Owl by Yupik Carver Melcher Oozevaseuk, Alaska


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by Melcher Oozevaseuk of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

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

This fine Snowy Owl was carved from an old fossilized ivory tusk of a walrus by Melcher Oozevaseuk of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering 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. Their native Siberian Yup'ik language is spoken on both sides of the straits.

Melcher has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusk of walrus and whalebone and trims them with baleen, a fibrous material from the mouth of Bowhead whales. Much ivory and whalebone is either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, and helps sustain their rich and proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

"Anipaghllak" - Snowy Owl in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful Snowy Owl was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus that took on a light tan patina from being buried for centuries. The center of the walrus tusk is a mottled light golden/yellow color, while the outer portions consists of a cream to pure white which were all stained a light brown. The piece was carved from the near the tip of a tusk. The eyes are baleen, a fibrous black material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. It's mounted on a seal vertebra found on a beach near Gambell.

The Snowy Owl is found throughout the northern arctic tundra plains and builds its nest on high frost mounds or any small vantage point. The Snowy Owl is sacred in many northern cultures. It is symbolic of that which comes at night - the dream world, the world of the Shaman, things that are seen by reflected light, moonlight. The owl is considered very wise, wisdom gained through deep thought emanating from dreams and reflection. Owls and birds were spirit helpers, summoned by the shamans to bring gifts of the spirit. The presence of a bird during a ritual ceremony was considered a good sign. Frequently birds were carved from ivory into amulets and adorned those who summoned the spirits. Their brightly colored feathers also adorn clothing and were 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. Give it an occasional very light coating of baby oil or mineral oil, avoid an acid based oil such as lemon oil. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory!

It measures 2 1/2 inches high which includes a 1 3/8 inch base, the Owl is 1 1/8 long and 5/8 inches wide. Melcher's signed the bottom of the vertebra.

This unique piece would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations. It's a fine carving by an Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the world.

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