From Spear Hunting to Selling Hand-Carved Ivory on Etsy

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. 

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 joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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