Sometimes I'm forced to explore methods of achieving the look I envision when working with unfamiliar material. If unusual and of high quality (which often means expensive) an element of risk and excitement is added to the mix. Damaging or breaking material means not only destroying something beautiful, but also requires time& effort replacing it before the project can proceed. Often, the broken items are irreplaceable or too expensive for the artist to repurchase. Bearing this and the unique, sacred aspect materials like fossil ivory holds for me, I approach my work with respect, reverence, and humility.
Yup'ik, where this fossil ivory was harvested from beaches during the brief summer.
The material in question is fossil ivory, one of my favorites, along with milky Baltic amber, Mayan jade, and North American turquoise. I like it more than diamonds, rubies, or gold, and many months passed before I achieved the inner confidence and perfectly poised, balanced frame of mind required before approaching the ivory and embarking on a new creation.
Fossil ivory is harvested from beaches during the summer by First Nations peoples along the Alaskan and Siberian coasts. The batch I purchased came from the Yup'ik penninsula. (In my next blog Ill write a little more about the Yupik and other First Nations of the north.) Time and exposure to the elements makes each one unique. Some are remnants of tools used by the ancestors: grooves, unusual angles, cross thatching, pecking and notching are evident on some, while others are chunks of walrus tusk and even whole teeth, ranging from creamy white to black, satin smooth to textured and pitted.
The piece below is concave and fits snugly around the longest piece that will hang center. After marking where the wire must pass in order to suspend the pieces in position, I held the drill in place, allowing it to gently set the pace, rather than forcing.
Using a length of scrap wire, I played with and adjusted placement of the pieces, bearing in mind not only overall size but the color and texture of how each would fit into the entire composition.