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Arctic allure

Jewelry market grows

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Dec 18/00) - Though stainless steel cafeteria fixtures are piled in the greater half of the room, cooking is the last thing on the minds of the people who occupy this space.

Welcome to Arctic College's jewelry studio, Rankin Inlet campus.

While the studio/classroom may have a makeshift quality -- program funding from year to year is not guaranteed -- the students are well-equipped, with workbenches, tools and a classroom area.

Claude Roussell, jewelry instructor for the second year, takes great pride in his students, some of whom are completing the second-year certificate program, while other are in their first year.

The students, says Roussell, have been labouring over pieces that will be offered for sale to the community during the annual Christmas Sale, Dec. 17.

These types of sales give new students a taste of what's to come in July, when an exhibit and sale is scheduled in the south.

"The students finally get a real reason for why they're doing all this stuff," says Roussell.

"All this stuff" encompasses knowledge of materials, techniques for working with metals and design development.

Roussell adds students "tend to make designs that are suited to the clientele, and priced accordingly."

For example, pieces destined for a community sale might be somewhat different from those sent to the big show scheduled for next July in Lunenburg, N.S.

Last year's show was in held in Vancouver at Spirit Wrestler Gallery.

"It went very well, it was very successful." says Nigel Reading, co-director of the gallery.

Reading adds since the opening of the show, the Inuit jewelry has been selling steadily.

In an interview last year with News/North, Reading said with fierce competition, it was imperative that Inuit jewelry reflect Inuit culture.

"It must stand on its own and be, literally, of its own in terms of design and subject matter. There's certainly a wealth of subjects up there," Reading emphasizes again.

"We're (Northern jewelry makers) building the market. We hope to participate again in the future," he said.

Roussell has a slightly less market-oriented perspective on the opening of the exhibit.

"There was a beautiful opening ceremony," he says.

"Matthew Nuqingaq (instructor trainee from Iqaluit) performed a drum dance, and an instructor from Cambridge Bay performed throat singing. There was a real sense of pride and culture. Everybody was very attentive."

Roussell adds many people were "enthused about what is coming from the Arctic. And they were very intrigued by the students' stories."

And as far as teaching next year, Roussell is not sure if he'll be back on board yet.

"Unfortunately, fine arts and crafts don't come first when it comes to funding."