A new obsession
Inuk Charlie carving new notch for himself in the world of art

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

CAMBRIDGE BAY (Mar 03/97) - Inuk Charlie's calls jewelry-making "my newest addiction."

Apart from the negative connotations of the term, "addiction" accurately describes Charlies' approach to an art form that is quite new to him.

His fascination with jewelry-making began two years ago, when he became one of the first students to enrol in a new two-year jewelry and metals diploma course at the local Nunavut Arctic College campus.

Though the learning curve started low with the course, it quickly took off. He now works as a tool technician for the college, maintaining equipment used in the course and instructing students on how to use it.

The demands of that job and another producing printed material for the learning centre -- and the responsibilities of taking care of his family of four -- are the only limits he allows to his devotion to jewellery.

One component of Charlie's drive is the fact that he's a perfectionist.

"I have had requests for wedding bands, but I thought I'd wait until next year, when I know how to cut stones better."

An accomplished carver, he possesses an intimate knowledge of carving techniques and the qualities of different stone.

"I want to be able to work with every kind of stone that can be worked with," said Charlie during a recent interview at his Cambridge Bay home.

His current favorite is serpentine, which is more brittle and harder than marble.

His long-term goal is to use what he is learning in the jewelry course to add a new dimension to his carving.

"I realize I can make a living at soapstone carvings, but with my father's reputation, my uncles and my mothers, I want to do something different or I'll always be in their shadow."

With that in mind, he is seeking to create a hybrid art form.

"I want to integrate gemstones and semi-precious stones with my everyday carvings," he explained. "I also want to learn how to work with gold."

Though his goals are ambitious, Charlie recognizes, and takes some humor in, his limitations.

"I can't draw," he confesses. "I can carve jade, a bar of soap, anything, no problem. But I can't draw a straight line."

His ability also comes to a screeching halt where carpentry is concerned.

Charlie offered to help his brother, a carpenter, when he was building his own home. "But he wouldn't let me touch it. I can't saw a straight line either.

"All I know is the nail is the thing you drive into the wood, and the hammer is what you hit your thumb with."