About Inuit Prints and Print Making  Nunavut Map

Inuit Art | Eskimo Art printmaking began in the late 1950's when James Houston visited the arctic. He saw the potential in their work and encouraged the Inuit Artists | Eskimo Artist to use the best paper and the finest finishes.
The first collection was issued by the Inuit Artists | Eskimo Artists from Cape Dorset in 1961. Many of these works fetch prices, at auction in the secondary market, today far beyond whart the original artist could have ever imagined.

Since James Houstons travels to the north Inuit art | Eskimo art has become a world renown art form coveted for both it's primitiveness [ the early years] and its high quality. ABoriginArt Galleries is pleased to present the following detailed information about Inuit | Eskimo prints and printmaking that we hope will be of interest to collectors



Baker Lake:           
The first edition of Baker Lake Prints appeared in 1970. They were an immediate success and a new edition of prints was released every year until 1990. For a number of reasons the series was suspended - with the exception of 1995 - until 1998. In 1997 a group of artist decided to revive the print series and did so with the release of the 1998 Baker Lake Print Collection. ABoriginArt is proud to offer the current collections as well as selected prints from the earlier collections that are still available - in mint condition.

Cape Dorset:        
The Cape Dorset Print Collections began in 1960 and have been issued annually ever since. Their release each year is much anticipated by the arts community. [One of each print from the 1960 Collection was assembled and sold as a group at auction in 2001 for about $150,000 USD]
ABoriginArt Galleries is pleased to offer the discerning collector access to a variety of contemporary & vintage Cape Dorset prints. 

The Pangnirtung Collections began in 1973 and have been issued almost annually ever since. No collection was issued in 1974 or 1981...with work resumed in 1982/1983. The prints have a distinct look and feel and historically have concerned themselves with family and camp life.


The Holman Print series began in 1965 and has been issued almost continuously since then. Holman is known for the use of stenciling and have recently added woodcut and lithograph techniques to their repertoire. Etching was introduced as a serious component in 1999 for the first time - with the exception of two experimental etchings released by Helen Kalvak in 1966. Etching was an integral part of the Cape Dorset print making from 1962 - 1976. It's re-appearance began in 1996 in Cape Dorset and quickly spread to west to Holman. 



The first prints came out of Povungnituk in 1962 - this was not a regular print catalog. The first full collections was issued in 1964 and almost annually since.

These commnities have also contributed prints over the years:

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Great Whale River
pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes)
pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Ivujivik
pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes)
Wakeham Bay


The Prints from each of these communities are normally produced in limited editions of 25-50 using a variety of techniques:

Aquatint: A print resembling a water-colour, produced from a copper plate etched with nitric acid.

Etching: Print made from a plate into which the design has been cut by acid.

Lino Cut & Woodcut  relief are the most common methods used in printmaking - except in Cape Dorset where stone cut is the dominant method. 

- Woodcut: The artist creates a drawing on the surface of a smooth block of wood. The surface on both sides of the lines in the drawing is then cut away, leaving the drawing in relief. When the carving is finished, the surface of the wood block is inked. Pressure [called burnishing] is applied, using either a small printing press or wooden spoon. This transfer lifts the ink from the raised portions of theblock to the paper leaving a slightly embossed texture. The paper is lifted and the next block from another color is inked. This process is repeated until all colors are printed.  

Lithograph: Using a grease crayon or tusche, the artist draws directly on the surface of a stone block or on a thin zinc or aluminium plate. Each color to be used in the image has it's own plate. The surface is etched with a diluted mixture of acid and gum arabic. This mixture fixes the image onto the surface, and makes the non-image areas more receptive to water. A thin film of water is sponged over the surface, and greasy lithographic ink is applied with a roller. The greasy ink adheres to the drawn areas but is repelled by the dampened non-image areas.

Cardboard Cut: A relief-type of print similar to a woodcut but produces a softer effect. The process was tried experimentally in Povungnituk in 1962

Stencil: From the original drawing, a mylar stencil is cut for each different color application to be used in rendering the print. Once the shapes have been cut from the mylar, the stenciled image is then transferred directly onto the paper by pounding ink through the unblocked shapes with the help of stippling brushes.
The texture of the image varies with the intensity of the ink applied. This technique is the only one that gives the effect of a soft brushed color. Colors are applied in sequence throughout the whole edition of the print.

Stone Cut: The stone cut was invented in Cape Dorset and consists of a flattened stone block, smoothed by sanding and filing. The negative image is traced onto the stone so that when the stone is inked the print appears exactly as the original drawing. The printmaker usually transfers the original drawing to the stone block. Ink is added to the stone. The printer takes over and is charged with transferring the images to paper using a tool known as a baren. With the stone cut method every print is truly an original as no two will be exactly the same. 


French Papers:
- Arches
Arches watercolor papers are mould-made in France, with 100% cotton fiber content. They are pH neutral, gelatin-sized, and air-dried. Arches Watercolor Papers have two deckle edges, and are watermarked and embossed. Three surfaces are available: Hot Press, Cold Press, and Rough.Also Arches Creme, Arches white etc..
- Rives: This very popular, fine printmaking paper is mouldmade in France and has a smooth, absorbent surface. Rives Papers, made of 100% cotton, are acid free, soft-sized, and buffered. Rives is perfectly suited for lithography, intaglio, screen printing, relief printing, linocut, collo type, and drawing. Each sheet is watermarked and has two natural deckle edges.

Japanese Papers: Japanese paper is like no other paper in the world. Often, it is handmade under centuries-old traditions, using the finest-quality fibers from plants found only in the Far East. Japanese paper is prized for lino and wood block printing, sumi painting, brush calligraphy, book binding, interleaving, and fly leaf and end leaf applications, as well as for many decorative purposes.
- Kizuki Kozo:   Handmade in Japan, these papers are thin, flexible and sturdy because of the qualities of three fibers used to make them: Kozo, Mitsumata and Gampi. The three most important qualities of Japanese fibers are their length, slender fiber shape and large amounts of attached glue-like hemicelluloses which make Japanese papers, traditionally hand made, one of the most beautiful, most fine and most enduring papers in the world.
- Tableau:  Tableau is quite easy to use. It it is translucent and it is quite easy to see if the image is transferring when you are printing by hand. Since it is fairly smooth the baren/spoon/etc will glide over it fairly easily.


Nunavut & NWT Collections:
Each community has its own symbol as proof of authenticity and origin:
Baker Lake prints bear the word mark  "Baker Lake" and often uses this symbol:
symbol-bl.jpg (24225 bytes)

uses an ulu symbol. The Inuktitut name for Holman is "Ulasarktok" - which means "the place of flat stones suitable for making ulu blades" - thus the symbol. Holman Prints prior the 1975 bore the  designation " Eskimo Western Arctic" hand written across the bottom of the prints.
The symbol is usually embossed on the print and looks like this:

symbol-holman.jpg (9189 bytes)

Cape Dorset
prints traditionally were identified by stamps, or symbols, in the form of "chops" - with the artist's name in syllabics at the top, followed by the name(s) of the printmaker. The igloo symbol forms the base. In the early years the artist's syllabics were often enclosed in a framework or box.  This type of identification is used on stonecuts, stencils, and some lithographs. Engravings and etchings do not carry a chop and recent lithographs and etchings are identified by the blind-embossed West Baffin Island Co-operative logo. Beginning with the 1974 collection, the artist's name was dropped from the chop; the artists now signs his or her name in syllabics next to the handwritten information at the bottom of  the paper. 
This is the symbol used today:

symbol-dorset.jpg (7945 bytes)

Pangnirtung prints were stamped with the kamik ("footwear") symbol through 1975. Since 1976, the Katanaq ("entrance to the snowhouse") is the symbol used to authenticate prints from Pangnirtung.
symbol-pang.jpg (6321 bytes)

Arctic Quebec ( Nunavik )  Collections:
Includes prints from George River, Great Whale River, Inoucdjouac, Ivujivik, Payne Bay, Povungnituk, Sugluk and Wakeham Bay. Although the Povungnituk cooperative has produced its own catalogued collections since 1962 the other communities usually issue their prints collectively. There is no symbol for Arctic Quebec in general. Great Whale River, Inoucdjouac, Ivujivik, Povungnirtuk and Wakeham Bay each have there own distinctive symbols.

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Great Whale River prints use the symbol of a Whale:
symbol-greatwhale.jpg (3923 bytes)

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes)
Inoucdjouac uses an image of a harpoon tip:
symbol-Inoucdjouac.jpg (5167 bytes)

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Ivujivik uses the image of a bear:
symbol-Ivujivik.jpg (3257 bytes)

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Povungnituk prints have used the following symbol as their mark since 1963, except 1973-74 when a small animal symbol was used.
The syllabics read: "The people of Povungnituk independent through a common effort"

symbol-pov.jpg (11909 bytes)

pp-redarrow.gif (860 bytes) Wakeham Bay prints contain an image of a seal:
symbol-wakehambay.jpg (4625 bytes)