Helen Iguptak is a textile artist from Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet), NU, who is known for her work with Inuit dolls. Her dolls can range between one and three feet in size, and often have caribou-skin clothing, kamiik (seal-skin boots), and intricate beadwork. Iguptak was born in Kuukyuak (Perry River), NU, and raised in Sanningajuq (Garry Lake), NU, a small hamlet between Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet) and Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake) . In addition to her textile work, Iguptak is also a painter, ceramicist, and plays the accordion and keyboard .
Iguptak made her first doll at the age of seven, during her time at Chesterfield Inlet Residential School (Turquetil Hall). An older girl taught her how to make the dolls, which Iguptak used both to comfort herself and to reclaim her Inuk heritage . After leaving residential school, Iguptak didn’t make another doll until the 1990s, when she rediscovered this early passion, saying it goes hand-in-hand with her desire to keep Inuit culture alive .
Untitled (Purple and Orange Doll) (2016) is a good example of Iguptak’s minute, detailed stitch work and dedication to capturing every facet of traditional dress, such as the black-bottoms of the doll’s boots, signifying the traditional waterproof sealskin kamiik. The repeated floral motif is carried from the fully articulated flowers and leaves on the chest through to smaller borders on the cuffs and hood, their purple background helping to distinguish the orange flowers from the tan hide of the doll’s amauti.
Iguptak is a frequent and eagerly anticipated contributor to various Nunavut festivals, including the Kivalliq Trade Show, the Nunavut Arts Festival, and the Great Northern Arts Festival. She led her own qivuit (muskox fur) spinning workshop during the Nunavut Arts Festival in 2019. In 2007, she was one of the organizers and exhibitors of K.I.D.F.E.S.T., or the Kivalliq Inuit Doll Festival, Exhibition and Story-Telling Traditions (2007), the first doll festival organized by Inuit, which toured in venues across Canada . She was named Rankin Inlet Artist of the Year in 2012.
1) Thomas Rohner, “Multi-talented Kivalliq doll-maker Helen Iguptak never stops working,” accessed October 4, 2019 from https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/65674multi-talented_kivalliq_doll-maker_helen_iguptak_never_stops_working/
3) Corinne Dunphy, “Dolls were the ‘little friends’ that helped this artist through residential school,” accessed October 4, 2019 from https://www.cbc.ca/arts/exhibitionists/dolls-were-the-little-friends-that-helped-this-artist-through-residential-school-1.4487593
4) Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association “Iguptak, Helen,” accessed October 4, 2019 from http://www.nacaarts.org/home/index.php/en/artists/artist-biographies/146-helen
5) IAQ. “No Two Look Alike.” Inuit Art Quarterly 22.3.