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Circle George Omnik’s Baleen Basket

The Life Aquatic

Sep 02, 2020
by Napatsi Folger

Born in Point Hope, Alaska, George Omnik (1905–1978) was an early Iñupiaq basket maker whose work largely distinguished the Point Hope style of baleen basket—an art form developed in the early twentieth century by Iñupiaq artists of the Point Barrow region and spread to communities throughout Alaska. Omnik was the first man in the community to practice basket making, and his use of flat lids, wide wefts and shouldered cylindrical shapes influenced the basketry of later Point Hope makers, like Luke Koonook and Gregg Tagarook (1943–2013).

 Baleen is a flexible and waterproof material, lending itself perfectly to the art of basket weaving. Omnik expertly executes a clockwise weave to produce a lidded basket with a deftly carved ivory and ink topper depicting a fight scene between a hunter and a bloody polar bear that contrasts the black sheen of the baleen.

A culmination of beauty and functionality, this basket nods to the deep connection Inuit still have today with our natural environment, both aesthetically and practically. 

— Napatsi Folger, Contributing Editor


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