Forging the future
Taking jewelry forward

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 08/00) - Opening a jewelry studio seems like the logical next step for Matt Nuqingaq.

A graduate of Nunavut Arctic College's three-year jewelry and metalwork program, Nuqingaq wanted to have a place for jewelry graduates to sell their creations. "We always have some great graduates, some great artists that come through," says Nuqingaq,

who is also the chairman of the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.

"Over the year, I've been thinking about these great students. They never seem to have a place to work after they have finished. They go through the three-year program, they finish it and they don't have a place to go to. Some might have a little bit of tools, some don't even have any tools to work after. I really felt for that."

So, Nuqingaq plans to start a group studio in Iqaluit, with the help of fellow graduate Ruben Komangapik -- the two created the door handles of the Nunavut Assembly's main chamber, and Nuqingaq was the silversmith for the creation of the mace.

"Ruben and I have been planning this for years. So see if (we) can find a place, and open a place for jewellers," he says, adding that, in fact, jewellers can't keep up with the demand for their product.

Nuqingaq says it's a matter of having a place to do the work and having the proper tools, which can be quite expensive.

Prior to discovering his passion for jewelry and metalwork, Nuqingaq was a school teacher for 12 years. With his background it comes as no surprise that he was offered a job as a jewelry instructor at the college.

But that's not enough for him.

"I would be just teaching, not helping students continue their work after they have finished (the program)," says Nuqingaq.

Jewelry and metalwork clearly have become the new wave of art flowing from the North. And Brigitte Clavette, a jewelry instructor from New Brunswick, says there is no good reason Nunavut jewellers couldn't make a good living.

"There are various ways of experimenting with making a living at this. A lot of students down south are opening their own studios and that could be the same here," Clavette told News/North while visiting Iqaluit in 1998.

Nuqingaq hopes that once the Iqaluit studio is set up, other communities will be able to benefit from all the legwork and start their own studio.

"We would have the contacts for the tools and the materials," he says.

Each year, jewelry programs are available in various communities. Komangapik is currently in Sanikiluaq teaching an eight-week course and Pierre Kumak, a graduate of the Arviat program, is teaching in Whale Cove.

"When I was teaching in Cambridge Bay and I said I was thinking of doing this type of stuff, some of the graduates were saying, 'We'll go over there!' It would be nice to support each other."

Nuqingaq hopes to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

"We have to find a building first and the (start-up) funding."

He was ready to start typing up the business plan that very afternoon.

"It's exciting. But scary at the same time. But there is a big demand for the jewelry."