Levi MacDonald

South Slave
Fort Smith
Primary Art Type: 

Artist Story

I made my first carving when I was about five years old. It was something my dad and I did at the time because he is a well-known carver. But that was about it until 2016 or so when my grandfather gave me a walrus tusk as a gift – that’s what got me to try carving once more and I haven’t stopped since. My dad is the one who taught me the most, but I learned a lot from my grandpa too. I feel very inspired by both of them.

I carve with different materials such as moose antler, muskox, buffalo hooves as well as walrus and mammoth tusk ivory. I started by making smaller jewelry pieces – like rings, pendants and brooches – and then moved to bigger art pieces. I can now make carvings of northern animals, like wolves and eagles. My favourite animal to carve is an eagle. I’ve made pendants with an eagle silhouette coming down to catch a prey, and I have also made eagle head broaches made out of ivory.

I get my inspiration from looking at a piece of material first; I look at its shape, the contours around a horn for instance, and see what I could get out of it. I visualize what I’d like to make and what my capabilities are at the time. I like to challenge myself when I carve and do the best that I can with my current skills. I absolutely love working with ivory right now. The mammoth tusk has beautiful texture and colour. You can get some fine details out of it because the ivory is not as porous as other materials.

I lose sense of time when I get immersed in my work. I can spend hours at the shop and it will feel like minutes. It used to be my grandpa’s shop, so it’s even more special to be in that space to continue the tradition.  My grandfather left a lot of materials for me to use, like muskox, moose and buffalo. As for the mammoth ivory, I have to find it from an external source, and even though it can get expansive, it’s worth it. I found my pieces from an archeologist in Alberta and I now have enough to last me a long while.

I would like to think that my art carries some aspect of a story, because I spend a lot of time on these items. I recently started mixing different pieces of material together, like muskox, mammoth and buffalo. I think the different materials stand out and bring the piece together well, which only means there is still so much to explore.

Artist Bio: 

Levi James MacDonald was born in Yellowknife and has lived in Fort Smith his whole life. He identifies as Dene, as well as Chipewyan from his maternal side and Cree/Chipewyan from his familial side.

Levi participated in his first tradeshow in April 2018, but mostly sells his artwork online through Facebook. When requested, Levi can do commissioned work, and has recently completed a wedding ring made out of moose antler with a piece of mammoth ivory.

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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