In 2018, a year before Alex Kilabuk started making jewellery, he was honing his skills, creating ulus and hunting knives. He learned how to clean and polish ivory, and to file and mold raw materials into the desired forms.
Born in Iqaluit, NU, Kilabuk was raised in Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), NU, where he now lives with his daughter, Ima Jaalu, and his wife, Annie Akulukjuk Kilabuk—also a jewellery artist, working with seal skin—and whom he credits for his success. “A lot of my ideas come from her,” he says. “She helps me decide the shapes. A lot of times the things I make, she has first dibs.”
Kilabuk favours a clean aesthetic with rounded lines and curves. Circular and tear-drop ivory rings, highly polished until smooth, sit atop graceful sterling-silver shanks. The organic simplicity of his stud-sized earrings, which he cuts into triangles and miniature ulus, enhances the natural pale beauty of the bone. A touch of whimsy appears in some of his designs, such as the tiny carved mermaid or fish fin earrings (he won’t say which they are), and the charming paired needle and thimble earrings, all of which sold out immediately on Kilabuk’s Instagram page.
“I do all my sales on Instagram, and it’s amazing how quickly they go,” he says. “I never wanted to be a carver or a jewellery maker. It was a hobby and something that I was curious about.”
Kilabuk currently works out of a small eight-by-eight shack outside his home with a little heater, where he can work well into the fall, experimenting with new techniques and styles. “When I first started making my jewellery, I had really limited tools,” he says. But as his skills grew so did his arsenal of equipment. Kilabuk already knows he’ll get bored repeating the same jewellery lines over and over, and so is contemplating his next creative venture, designing new styles of ulus.
This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.