From Spear Hunting to Selling Hand-Carved Ivory on Etsy

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In this beautifully made film from Etsy's Handmade Portraits series, Sylvester Ayek talks about how the traditions of his Iñupiat community have evolved in the modern world. He grew up on King Island, 90 miles off the coast of Alaska. Now based in Nome, he balances hunting with a career as an artist, carving wood and ivory sculptures and selling them in his Etsy store. For Alaskan Natives, creating artwork provides supplemental income and an escape from day-to-day subsistence living. The documentary, The Bone Carver, is by Tara Young, with music by Matt Abeysekera

This ivory sculpture of a seal and its pup, above, is available in Ayek's Etsy store. He writes

Seals are often portrayed in many Alaska Native art pieces because they are important to their culture and help the communities sustain life through use of the seals meat, warm fur, and other useful products that are used everyday. Every part of the seal is used and cherished and nothing is wasted. There is a spiritual connection to this animal because the seal provides the necessities that a village needs to maintain a subsistence lifestyle. The tradition of hunting seals has been passed down through thousands of years of traditions and values that are also passed on from generations of family members.

For more videos by Etsy, visit http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/video/.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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