“Oooooo! They are so tiny!” I was taking a group of kids through an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Small Worlds. It featured miniature Inuit carvings. “How can anyone make something so small?” one of the children asked me. “I can’t even imagine how they do it!”
It is hard to imagine how the intricate pieces in Small Worlds were carved. That’s part of what made the exhibit curated by the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s assistant curator of Inuit art, Jocelyn Piirainen so fascinating and intriguing.
The exhibit has nearly a hundred pieces created by Nunavut artists between 1950 and 1970. The pieces were carved to sell or trade and some were made to bring good fortune to hunters.
The miniatures have been crafted from all kinds of different materials- antler, ivory, stone, musk ox horn, whalebone, walrus tusk, sinew, seal skin, caribou skin, and wood. In some cases, the form of the material itself has inspired the artist.
Some of the miniature artworks make you laugh, others tell a dramatic story and they all make you marvel at the artists’ patience. What steadiness of hand must have been required to create these tiny wonders!
Small Worlds is simply fascinating!