“This small piece took me such a long time. I really enjoy carving ivory as it is great material to capture fine detail. I wanted to give this drummer a magical feeling as he danced with the Northern Lights. I decided to have him represented as a shaman in transformation. The hard part was to make the wing appear natural. I did not want it to appear stiff but to be more realistic with flexible flight wing feathers. The feathers all flair out and bend as he beats his drum. The only way that I could think of to create this affect was to carve each baleen feather individually and set them at different angles in the whalebone wing. This proved very difficult as I had to carve each baleen feather so thin and then I had to heat each feather carefully, without scorching it, to be able to bend it to the required position. I carved 17 feathers of different lengths and then each feather was inlaid to overlap the feather next to it.
“I carved all the other feathers on the arm whalebone wing with a human thumb to hold the beater where it fits in. The beater is made from the tip of a muskox horn and I carved the string around the top of the beater as if it was securing the leather covering the end of the stick. The drum has a Labradorite stone skin but I decided to string real caribou sinew around the edge like on a real drum.
“These Labradorite pieces are from Tabor Island. I selected them very carefully choosing pieces of rarer quality that reflect the full colour spectrum of blue, green and gold. The hard part is carving the stone so thin because the stone naturally has so many natural fractures that it has a tendency to break. The Labradorite has to be cut at the exact right angle so that it catches overhead lighting and can reflect the full colours within each piece. This is all time consuming and difficult to do, especially when inlaying into the drum and Northern Lights. I always enjoy carving antler so thin but the challenge is to make sure it does not break especially when inserting the inlays.”
Billy was born on July 7, 1978, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. In his early years he travelled eastern Canada residing and schooling in Ottawa, Yarmouth and Halifax in Nova Scotia, then at the age of thirteen returned to live in Goose Bay. He now lives in North West River in Labrador and enjoys fishing and hunting on the land with his family.
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