My cousin, Karen was looking for a tattoo design. She felt that it should have something to do with strength and family — and the main idea was a snowshoe. Our grandfather, Jimmy Baikie was very much a trapper and the snowshoes that he used were the bear paws. I remember the tips of his shoes were decorated with strands of wool — five separate strands spread out across the tips of the snowshoe, tied together and inserted into five little retaining holes. Grandfather would tell us that the wool left marks in the snow like the claws of a bear.
The tattoo design still needs more work, but I started thinking about a teapot design.
I began by reducing the original design so that it didn’t include the frame of the snowshoes … just what I had drawn on the interior, and the idea that I had for the interior was a face. The eye-brows and the nose became the handle, and the mouth became the body of the teapot, the eyes were then added to give the teapot both a sense of life and a playful side.
Looking straight on at the teapot it looks back at you — but it also looks like an ulu. As the ideas began to flow, I added the piercing plugs (or the spout and lid handles) which the Sámi Inuit used to show strength and power. For the feet I wanted the design to be a flippers or wings, so I made them where they could be either/or.
As it all started to come together, I began to think of titles … and somehow it was “contemplating shamanism while drinking tea” that suited it the best. I wanted something that brought together all my thoughts and ideas — from family to culture — and which tied it all together. The teapot is meant to be symmetrical, so with the etching design I divided the top into four equal sectors and inside of each section I have etched the Inuit alphabet, but in no particular order … rather more as a pattern. When you remove the spout or the lid, one at a time, it looks as if he is speaking from the side of his face, again on the humorous side.
Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.
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