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The Clarkson Cup is born

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 15/06) - Speaking during a cross-country trip, silverworker, teacher and now trophy maker, Beth Biggs admits she is dealing with an uncomfortable vision.

NNSL Photo/graphic

From left, Okpik Pitseolak, Beth Biggs, Pootoogook Qiatsuk and Therese Ukaliannuk are the artists behind the Clarkson Cup, the trophy to become the Stanley Cup for womens hockey. The ornate silver cup was commissioned last year by then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, and contains a number of Northern touches. - photo courtesy of Beth Biggs

"I think about picking it up by the handles and handing it to Mdm. Clarkson," she said, of giving the cup to former Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, who commissioned the trophy.

"After having my nose three inches away from it for months and months - it's hard."

The vision will soon become reality, as Biggs will hand-deliver the Clarkson Cup to its namesake in Ottawa.

She and three of her former students at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit have spent the last eight months developing and crafting the cup, which will honour Canada's amateur women hockey players.

In August, Biggs and three of her former students at Northern Arctic College (Okpik Pitseoloak, Pootoogook Qiatsuk and Therese Ukaliannuk) were commissioned to create an ornate silver cup by Clarkson, inspired by Lord Stanley's contribution to men's hockey in 1892.

Now that the cup is done, it has to stay under wraps.

"(Clarkson) wants all the images of the cup to be kept confidential until she presents it to Canada," she said. "I think it's only appropriate - she hasn't seen it yet."

But there is nothing to stop Biggs from describing the cup.

"It's beautiful," she said. "The forms are a blend of soft femineity, but with a very strong stance."

She said the cup is more traditional, but with ornate work that makes it uniquely Northern.

These touches were added by Biggs's students, with each focusing on a particular theme and part of trophy.

Biggs said Pitseoloak developed a depiction of Sedna, the traditional Inuit goddess of the sea, for the cup, while Ukaliannuk created representations of "Sedna's fingers" for the cup's handles.

In legend, Sedna's fingers were chopped (or broken) off by her father as she clung to the side of his boat. The fingers then sank, becoming all the animals in the sea.

For the cup's stem, Qiatsuk created a series of ancient masks, while Biggs formed representations of each of Canada's 13 provincial and territorial flowers on the cup's base.

"I wanted something that represents all of Canada at the base," she said. "It grounds the cup."

Biggs said the most enjoyable part of the cup's development was working with former students, who have now become her peers.

"There is no greater thrill as an educator."

This isn't the first time she has had to say goodbye to her work for Clarkson. In 2004, Biggs was commissioned to create a silver plate for outgoing Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"It is just continually amazing," she said. "I can't believe this is happening to us."