Back in 1994 I was teaching in Gjoa Haven and had the great pleasure of meeting Nelson Takkiruq. One Saturday morning I was on my way to the studio/classroom to work on one of my teapots, and as I was walking up the road I saw a man outside carving. This may not sound that different than what happens in any other small northern community, but this day was cold… very cold… according to the weather channel it was minus 75 C with the wind-chill! This is what made the meeting with Nelson that much more interesting.
As I approached him I noticed that he had simply a 4’ x 4’ piece of plywood on the ground as a work-area — with a bench-grinder and a couple of files and picks. Now here it was as cold as it was… and Nelson had no gloves on and with his parka half-open and his hood down, outside carving in the open! And at the same time with a big smile on his face. I approached him and for a little while stood to watch him carve. He happily stopped his work and put the piece together for me, and it was a man with a bow and arrow. The arrow wasn’t there yet but he motioned to me that it would be. I watched for a bit and then went on my way, thinking of him for the rest of the day — and the fact that he was outside. At the time I didn’t know that he was a respected master-carver and Elder in his community, so when I found this out I was overjoyed to know that I had had that opportunity to meet him and watch him work.
Just a few years later, I was much saddened to hear that he and two of his brothers (Charlie Ugyuk and Judas Ullulaq) had all passed away. So because of that meeting with a great master — and also because my favourite art in the North comes from this area — I had to make this piece as a homage to a man that made me look at Inuit art in a different light.
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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