Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 12, 2015 - 7:21 am

Nunavut artist creates beauty from skin and bone

"I really like the solitude of creating"

Artist and jeweler Adina Tarralik Duffy chisels down a piece of antler — one of her favourite materials to work with. (PHOTO COURTESY OF UGLY FISH)
Artist and jeweler Adina Tarralik Duffy chisels down a piece of antler — one of her favourite materials to work with. (PHOTO COURTESY OF UGLY FISH)
A vertebra disc cuff, by Ugly Fish.
A vertebra disc cuff, by Ugly Fish.
Ugly Fish high kick/seal skin ball earrings.
Ugly Fish high kick/seal skin ball earrings.

A half dozen beluga vertebra discs are lined up along a piece of fur.

In the same space, you’ll find caribou antlers, bits of sealskin and a polar bear paw.

But this isn’t a biology class or a museum; this is Adina Tarralik Duffy’s home studio in Coral Harbour, where bits and pieces of Arctic wildlife await her creative touch.

Duffy, a designer and jeweller, recalls sitting in a friend’s workshop in Rankin Inlet years ago, surrounded by power tools and antlers.

“I just picked up some antler and started going for it,” Duffy said. “Something just clicked. The hours would pass and I didn’t even notice.

“I really like the solitude of creating.”

The result of her labour was a shapely caribou antler disc pendant, the first of many pieces of jewellery Duffy has fashioned under her business Ugly Fish — a common name for kanajuk or sculpin.

Duffy, the daughter of Leonie and Ron Duffy, grew up in Coral Harbour around the family’s business, a hotel called Leonie’s Place, which has been in operation since the mid-1980s.

Family was one of the major draws for Duffy to return North after spending time in southern Canada and the United States.

But she also enjoys being close to the material she harvests for her creations, often picked up along the tundra or the beach, with her six-month-old son Bo Everett in tow, or in the brief moments the baby naps.

“It’s usually pretty easy to find beluga vertebrae on the beach,” said Duffy, who makes disc earrings from the whale’s spinal column.

“But sometimes I have to boil the meat off the beluga, which is a bit more of a gruesome process,” she said. “It’s sort of grotesque, but it becomes something beautiful.”

Indeed, Duffy’s beluga vertebra earrings have caught the attention of women across the country, spotted recently on the ears of Nunavik songstress Beatrice Deer and CBC Igalaaq host Madeleine Allakariallak.

“I’m really amazed at how well-received my work is,” Duffy said. “And the kinds of people who are drawn to it are always the kind of people I admire; strong people.”

And then there’s the more unlikely customers, like the sports hunters who recently showed up at her door looking for gifts to bring home to their girlfriends.

Duffy said her work manages to appeal to customers north and south; even vegans will take to her jewelry because it’s “ethically” harvested, and from a place many Canadians only dream of visiting.

Fans of Ugly Fish can also look forward to new designs on the horizon; Duffy has started to work on a clothing line, including jersey dresses and Nunavut-inspired leggings (picture prints of Klik canned meat.)

Don’t be surprised at what else this Coral Harbour multi-media artist comes up with; Duffy has already dabbled in music, recording an album in 2010, while Duffy recently won the Sally Manning award for a non-fiction piece she wrote about her late grandmother.

“I’m a person of many interests and sometimes it’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse,” she said.

“The options are limitless and I find that inspiring and it keeps things fresh.”

You see some of Duffy’s creations on the Ugly Fish Facebook page, or reach her directly at

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