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20 Carvers to Know in 2020: Damien Iquallaq

Jan 13, 2020
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“I am going to be carving for the rest of my life,” says Damien Iquallaq. Iquallaq worked at Ashoona Studios in Yellowknife, NT, before setting up his own studio in Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), NU. His practise is rooted in the carving legacy of his brothers and grandfather, Nelson Takkiruq, and often takes the form of traditional legends and local animals.

Intricately detailed and finely textured, Iquallaq carvings combine a roster of unusual materials, from fossilized mammoth teeth to petrified wood and muskox boss. “It’s pretty tricky stuff when you get into detailed and figurative work,” Iquallaq says. “Once you remove something it changes the whole composition of the piece.” To give himself more room to play, Iquallaq prefers to carve from larger mammoth tusks where possible, which he sources from Russia and Siberia. One key piece in Iquallaq’s carving arsenal? A heated shed. “To do more detailed work I need to be able to move freely and take my gloves off. You just can’t do that kind of work when it’s -30° C outside.”

Since he branched into jewelry and accessories, metal has started making more frequent appearances in Iquallaq’s work. Created in response to the resurgence of tattooing taking place in his community, Traditional Inuit Tattoos features inlaid copper kakiniit (tattoos) encircling raised stone arms, a testament both to the resiliency of Inuit culture and to Iquallaq’s own ingenuity and creativity as an artist.

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