The last of the carvers?
Chesterfield Inlet's only carver perfecting her skill

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

CHESTERFIELD INLET (Feb 18/98) - Philippa Aggark opens the door of the carving workshop attached to the back of her Chesterfield Inlet home where she focuses on an art all but forgotten in the community of 300.

The small, dusty addition with its simple workbench and electric tools provides Aggark with a place away from her four children where she can hone her carving skills and do what she enjoys most as Chesterfield Inlet's only carver.

"The only other carver was my mother-in-law, but she has passed away," she says.

Aggark, 37, enjoys making jewelry and sees it as a way to pass the time constructively, using a skill she learned from her family in Repulse Bay.

"It's not an everyday thing, but it's something different besides housework -- it's a hobby," she says.

Aggark, who teaches Inuktitut at the community's adult learning centre, remembers how she learned to carve when she was growing up in Repulse.

"Back home, we used to have an instructor who used to teach us how to carve -- mostly with hacksaw, files and sandpaper," she says.

About five years ago after seeing her mother-in-law, Eulalie Angotingoar, carve, she decided to pick up the hobby again, and she hasn't stopped since.

Well-known for ivory and caribou antler jewelry that sells across the Keewatin and in the South, Aggark likes the challenge of producing different pieces all the time. It's extremely rewarding, she says. "When people want to buy (one of her pieces), and they see it and it's better than what they expected." Over the last five years, her art has appeared at the 1993 Keewatin Arts and Crafts Festival, in Ottawa shows, as well as in Rankin Inlet during the royal visit by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.

But Aggark says she really continues the work because she loves doing it.

Her favorite is the drum dancer.

"It has little details and it's not flat," she said.

She would also like to see her children start to carve to keep the tradition going in her family.

And if it's up to her nine-year-old son, Corey, he'll be the first to begin learning the craft.

And that's fine with Aggark.