It all started about 30 years ago when I was just filling in for printmakers to help them meet their deadlines. I mainly learned by watching. My mother Mabel was one of my mentors, as well as my aunt and uncle – they were all artists who made prints for the annual Holman Print Collection. There are a lot of artists in my family.
It took a few years for me to know that I wanted to be an artist. As I learned, I practiced a lot and I became better at it. The reason I got into it was because I like how making prints helps preserve the traditional way of Inuit life and culture. Our culture stays alive through our artwork.
I make stencil prints, woodblock, stonecut, lithograph and some carvings as well. I love the stone cut method of making prints, but it is a lot of work to flatten and smooth a slab of limestone, and then transfer the image and texture onto the stone before it is inked up and printed. If you want to add colours, you have to cut a different stone for every colour. Stencilling makes it easier for me to add colour, so I mostly make stencil prints.
Some of my artwork tells stories. A lot of my work depicts animals, people, birds. I think my favourite must be the polar bear. I love printing polar bears, because I have seen so many of them in my lifetime. The first bear that I ever caught was back in 1976, when I was 16 years old and it was my first time out polar bear hunting with my dad. I have hunted animals for a long time and I know them well.
It may be a long time before Ulukhaktok produces a collection again, but I will continue to make prints until then. Maybe I will make my own collection until that time comes. I have sold a lot of artwork over the years, nowadays, mostly to individuals through orders, some to the print shop, but mostly they go out of town to people’s houses all over.