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Walrus Ivory Swan Pin by Yupik Carver Kenneth Koozata, Gambell, AK


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by Kenneth Koozata 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 Kenneth Koozata.

This fine Swan pin was carved from the tusk of a walrus by Kenneth Koozata 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.

Kenneth has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from the ivory tusk of a 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.

Tundra Swan - This fine ivory Tundra Swan or "Quuk" in the Siberian Yup'ik language was carved from an ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the tusk is a mottled cream color, while the outer portion consists of cream to pure white. This piece was carved from the cream colored portion of the tusk. The eye is inlaid black baleen. 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.

Swans and birds were spirit helpers, summoned by the shamans to bring gifts of the spirit. Frequently swans were carved from ivory into amulets and adorned those who summoned the spirits. Their brightly colored feathers also adorn clothing and swan eggs was 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!

Ken signed his initials by the pin. It measures 2 1/4 inches from tip of nose to tip of wing and the body is 1/4 inch thick. This unique piece would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of many conversations when you are wearing it because it is one of a kind. It's a fine carving by an Eskimo carver in a very remote part of the world.

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