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Don Gruben

Region: 
Inuvik Beaufort Delta
Community: 
Inuvik
Associations: 
Phone: 
(867) 777-2157
Address: 
11 Dolphin Street
P.O. Box 1778
Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0

Artist Story

I’ve worked with many different art forms growing up. In school, I would draw because I couldn’t keep still in class. I refused to do the work required, so I was always put in the corner. The teachers would let me draw because I was always calmer when I did any type of art. I also did calligraphy, which was more of a past time for me.

When I was 23, my uncle introduced me to soapstone carving. I wasn’t very good when I first started, but practice can get you far. I would watch, ask him questions and learn as much as I could from him. I was born with one lung and as I got older, carving became difficult for my health. So I began making smaller carved jewellery, which produced less dust was easier for me to tolerate. The tradition of carving is my blood, passed on from my mother, who is a very creative seamstress.

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time out on the land with my grandparents, many nautical miles north east of Tuktoyaktuk. We would fish, hunt caribou and get everything we needed to survive off the land. To this day, I try to keep my Inuvialuit culture alive through my art, by carving images that reflect our traditional lifestyle, northern landscape, and the wildlife that is so important to our survival. All of my jewellery is made with natural materials such as moose antler, whale baleen, or muskox horn. I like to make quality work that is durable and strong, like the animals the materials come from. I try to create an image that people are going to admire. It brings me back to those beautiful memories and it is more fulfilling for me that way.

Creating art takes me away from everyday stress of a busy life. When I make art, I just focus on the art and on the creation process. I don’t see this as a job, because it’s good for the soul. I’m grateful to have a partner and a family who are supportive of my work and its lifestyle, as I know I can get lost in the process and spend many, many hours in my shop making art. To me, art is the thing I have to do every day and I am grateful for that opportunity.

Artist Bio: 

Don was born and raised in the Northwest Territories, spending most of his life in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Don is a self-taught Inuvialuit artist with over 25 years of experience. As a carver, his favourite animal to portray is the polar bear. Now, Don focuses on making jewellery directly linked with his Inuvialuit culture.

Last Updated: April 7, 2020

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