Ceramic Production Part 1

20 Sep

Today was a huge day for us here in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). As I mentioned yesterday, we had been popping by the Matchbox Gallery last weekend, but today we were there the whole day in order to do some work. Part of that work is documenting and researching some of their collection and part of it is getting to know the artists and share their process with you.

From left to right: Phillip Ugjuk, Jack Nuviak, Amauyah Noah and Jim Shirley sketching

First, a bit of background on the program. The Government of the Northwest Territories set up a ceramics program in Rankin Inlet in 1963 in order to provide jobs for local Inuit when the nearby Nickel Mine shut down (this was before the creation of Nunavut, when the NWT was administering the area). The program encountered several obstacles – things as basic as obtaining clay were challenges. There is local clay available, but the labor costs to process it are extremely high. Eventually, that program closed. In the 1980s, Jim Shirley came to the community and was inspired to begin another program. With his wife Sue, he opened the Matchbox Gallery in 1987 and revived ceramics making here.

The Kangirqliniq Centre for Learning and Arts operates with the same people on the same premises as the Matchbox. The KCLA realizes the Shirleys vision of artistic production: a communal, collaborative program that is supportive, holistic and enriching. Each day, artists begin by journaling in order to externalize and process whatever they are feeling; then, they do brief math and reading exercises. These activities perform several essential functions: they help to increase analytical and problem-solving skills, have clear real world enrichment and help to build self-confidence. With this base, everyone then completes some drawing exercises – often still lifes and portraits. These skills are the foundations of the program – the spatial reasoning needed to draw successfully translates into other art forms. Then, individual artists work on their own projects.

Today, we were able to participate in this process which was a true honor. Instead of simply documenting works, we really were integrated into the activities today. For example, today’s portrait subject was our Director, David.

(From left to right:) Philip Ugjuk, Helen Iguptak, Amauyah Noah, Jack Nuviak, Jim Shirley and David Harris look at sketches - of David.

I should also clarify something I said early – not exactly everyone participates in the drawing exercises. Veteran ceramicist Yvo Samgushak had no time or interest in sketching and instead moved directly to working on his own work. He later communicated to me that he though drawing was crazy (Yvo is deaf and communicates primarily using Inuktitut sign language).

Yvo Samgushak focuses on his own work while Jack Nuviak (left) and Jim Shirley sketch in the background.

In addition to Yvo, John Kurok, Jack Nuviak, Helen Iguptak, Amauyah Noah and Phillip Ugjuk were working, as well as Jim and Sue. The emphasis on collaboration in the studio was clear: Helen and Amauyah, for example, normally create dolls and prints, respectively. Today, they were working on creating clay masks. They helped each other, asked Phillip about sculpting noses and had input from John and Jack, too. There was lots of laughter in the studio. And just amazing material being created.

Amauyah Noah (left) and Helen Iguptak helping each other create masks.

They are all extremely gracious and friendly and I’m extremely grateful that they allowed me to photograph and film them working. I have to edit the movies before they go up on Youtube, but the photos are up on Facebook and Flickr currently. I further get the opportunity to speak to them individually this week about their work – if you have questions you’d like me to ask, let me know. I will keep posting updates as we work through the week  – if the rest of the week is anything like today, we are all in for some real treats.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: