Gorgeous new print from the 2021 Dorset Print Collection: Walrus Lore by Qiatsuk Ragee
FORWARD from the 2021 Dorset Print Collection, by Paul Machnik and Bess Muhlstock from Studio PM
We had little reason to believe that the etching workshop we offered in Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset) in March, 2019 would be the last for a very long while. Who could predict the maelstrom of Covid hitting the world stage?
We set up shop in the empty, original stonecut studio that was built in the days of James Houston. The new printmaking facility on the hill, now housing litho and stonecut in brightly-lit, immaculate surroundings, would not accommodate the number of people we have at one time let alone the inherent odours created in the etching process. The old rooms were welcoming to us as well as to the artists. Everyone could spread out and be creative.
The heavy wooden crates of prepared etching plates, along with attendant supplies had been sent to Kinngait months before by boat. They were waiting for us, as were our supplies left from previous workshops, tucked away in a utility room in the old litho building. We spent the first day or two organizing and setting up. Paul announced on the radio that we were in town and the etching workshop would commence. All those interested were invited to participate.
We had a steady roster of well-known artists and new faces arriving, at times uncertain as to what to expect, but interested in the process. We would greet them, some were old friends so they got huge hugs and banter. Sometimes the artist was interested in working in the studio and they got straight to work. Other times they would take an etching plate or two away to work on. We would also bring plates to those artists unable to leave home. Each plate was numbered so we could keep track of each, as they were returned to us with the images scratched into the varnish. The first days are always exciting but chaotic, with everyone concentrating at their work in the studio, seeing what each creative initiative brought, or uncovering a plate done at home which was like unwrapping a gift.
Little did we know, however, that this would be the last workshop that four of the artists would attend. Sadly, Kudluajuk Ashoona, Malaiya Pootoogook, Kakulu Saggiaktok, and Pitaloosie Saila passed away since our time in Kinngait.
Kudluajuk stepped up to the plate, literally, despite her poor health at the time, and produced etchings based upon her dreams and her family. We knew it was an effort for her to work, but we all felt it was an important moment that she had something to say. It was wonderful to see Malaiya once again working on plates. She created beautiful images in her inimitable way of birds with berries and microphones, and vintage planes. Due to mobility issues, Kakulu Saggiaktok worked from home. At first she used sugarlift, a process requiring less careful scratching, but a looser, more fluid approach but then she surprised us by executing several wonderfully drafted etchings. She was an elder with a deep devotion to her family, always with a ready smile. We often visited Pitaloosie at home out past the Anglican Church. She welcomed us into her lively home with her grandchildren running about, her family around her. This last visit she also worked with sugarlift. Previously she had a sure hand, but this made it possible to contribute, and the results are delightful.
We will deeply miss these four wonderful people.
As always, Shuvinai Ashoona was a steady presence. Prolific in her imagery, the creative process just pours out of her. Cheerful but always determined, she set upon the plates with energy and drew creatures and worlds unknown, in dreamlike images. We had brought with us some large format black and white proofs of hers from a previous workshop and asked if she would hand colour them. At first she began with coloured pencils and then we encouraged her to try watercolour. Initially she was hesitant, unsure with the fluidity of the watercolour. But quickly she got the hang of it and the works are powerful and original.
Padloo Samayualie came to the studio quite regularly. She was very prolific and produced some unbelievable imagery in her careful approach.
Qiatsuk Ragee was steadfast throughout the time, not missing a day. He worked diligently, with careful attention and sensitivity.
Three of the printers took part in the workshop. Qavavow Manomee, now the senior stonecut printer, would take plates home and quietly return with a smoking bird, a walrus pulling himself on the ice, and a bear in an amauti. His deliberate rendering and unusual juxtapositions were imaginative and at times comical, but always true to the line. Nujalia Quvianaqtuliaq (conveniently known as NQ), one of the lithographers, did some lovely and simple work. Cee Pootoogook, also a printmaker, created an image different from anything he had done in the past. We’re hopeful they will each continue to participate in the future.
Nicotye Samayualie worked from home. We would often drive over to RC Valley and deliver the plates to her, retrieving them once she was done. Her characteristic landscapes, seascapes and pebbled shorelines were beautiful and detailed. She juggled taking care of the home and her children all the while managing to create stunning images.
Ningeokuluk Teevee, blessed with talent and imagination, accomplished two lovely etchings. Busy as always with her work and her home life, we were happy she wanted to participate.
Kov Pudlat is an example to the younger artists. He’s a quiet man who just gets on with his work. He was busy from morning until night working on drawings and on plates that are outstanding.
Sita Saila, now one of the last elders involved in the etching workshops, graced us with her quiet presence. Her work harkens back to the sixties and it was a pleasure to see her participate. She worked on some large plates, detailing images of a woman with braids and a goose with a young gosling.
Ooloosie Saila, one of the younger artists, came to work in the studio with her rambunctious son and a baby in her amauti. We tried to keep her son occupied as she concentrated on the sugarlift technique, stopping at times to tend to her baby. She was quiet and determined, and created monumental landscapes that she later worked over with white ground, once the sugar medium had dried.
Olooreak Etungat showed great understanding of movement and exceptional draftsmanship. A diamond in the rough, so to speak.
Nuna Parr was very busy during the time of the workshop, but executed some lovely plates that were later sent down to us. He is an iconic figure in the community, always looking out for others.
Some of the newer faces to take part were Alashua Akesuk, a very young Latch Akesuk, Sam Akesuk, Pee Ashevak, Ogituq Ashoona, Kiliktee Kiliktee, Pabinaq Petalaussie, Shelakie Petalaussie, Josie Pootoogook, Paunjoungie Saggiak, Johnny Saggituk, Alashua Sagiatuq, Ottokie Samayualie, and Susie Sharky. Some had attended previous etching workshops, for others this was their first time. Each show great potential if they are willing to keep at it.
As with each of our workshops, there is a whirlwind of activity throughout the time we are there. Not only do we work with the artists, helping with the techniques and encouraging their efforts, we also etch the plates in the little cabin across the old Coop offices. As well, we try to proof each plate to leave a record behind. Before leaving, we have to package the plates individually for transport and clean up the studio. It is always a bittersweet time. We are excited with what everyone had accomplished but sorry to leave old and new friends behind. Hopeful in the time that we may return.
Paul Machnik and Bess Muhlstock
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