Nunavut artist gets dolled up
"I see things that come to my mind and I just have to create it"
Vicky Pauloosie Arnauyumayuq likes to create.
The Arctic Bay mother and office administration student is a self-described artist, who enjoys drawing, painting and sometimes carving in her free time.
But she’s added a new craft to her hobbies in recent months, which is grabbing the attention of people in the High Arctic community of about 900.
Arnauyumayuq has started making large hand-made dolls, which are about three feet in height and crafted with traditional Inuit materials, such as caribou, muskox, rabbit or fox fur.
The 33-year-old Nunavut Arctic College student uses tanned caribou skin for her creatures’ skin, stretched out with clothes hangers and stuffed with cotton for shape.
Then she puts her seamstress skills to work, crafting miniature parkas, kamiks and pants with sealskin and canvas.
The dolls have life-like hair made from muskox, rabbit or fox fur.
“I was planning to make one for a long time, and then I just started,” said Arnauyumayuq, adding she’d never been taught or seen others make a doll before. “It was just my imagination.”
It was only after fashioning her first doll that Arnauyumayuq’s aunt noticed the creation looked a lot like dolls that her late grandmother used to make in Igloolik.
Her doll-making quickly drew attention, so Arnauyumayuq applied for funding from the Hamlet of Arctic Bay to host a doll-making workshop that wrapped up in December.
Four other Arctic Bay women signed up to make their own dolls.
“They had a choice of what materials they wanted to make their dolls with,” Arnauyumayuq said.
The dolls are almost entirely made of natural materials; the group collected the caribou skin locally and ordered the rest of the fur from Winnipeg.
The actual doll-making is a long and tedious process, which took the women three weeks, with each of them spending a few hours a day on their creations.
The final product is impressive in its detail. One bearded doll, which resembles an Inuk elder in traditional clothing, wears a tiny headdress, necklace and tasselled parka, while his caribou-skin hands grip an antler tool.
The dolls are not meant to be replicas of anyone in particular, Arnauyumayuq said.
“But people say one of my dolls looks like my late father,” she said. “It just turned out like that.”
The hard work has paid off; Arnauyumayuq has since sold two dolls at about $1,500 a piece.
She’s not sure if they’re better suited as children’s toys or as decorative art, but she says they can be either.
Arnauyumayuq’s next project is to make a mermaid doll.
“It’s going to be amazing,” she said. “I love art. I see things that come to my mind and I just have to create it.”