Featured Soapstone carving subject matter

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by NaturallyArizona, Jan 12, 2021.

  1. NaturallyArizona

    NaturallyArizona New Member

    I acquired my first soapstone pieces this weekend and was hoping the smart folks here might shed some light on the subject matter. I've seen plenty of these over the years and have never paid much attention. These are larger, and less polished than I've seen. There are still subtle tool marks throughout the piece.

    A little bit of what (I think I've) learned about the piece so far:
    Please correct anything I'm mistaken about. I'm not afraid, and rarely am I right. And, I want to learn.

    1. The "Canadian Eskimo Art" sticker on the bottom (hopefully) denotes the works authenticity.
    2. The numbering on these particular pieces is indicative of an earlier work. Maybe early or pre-1970?
    3. This disc number begins with an "E", meaning the artist is from the East Arctic region.

    I've seen quite a few carvings depicting whales, seals, bears etc but am not sure what is represented here. Is this possibly a sled?

    Any information / thoughts / opinions on the work would be appreciated.
    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg 4.jpg 5.jpg 6.jpg
    Thanks Antiquers!
  2. blooey

    blooey Well-Known Member

    The number on the front is some Canadian's social insurance number, the Canadian police defaced an enormous quantity of objects during a ID campaign in the late 1970's. They may still do that here and there, IDK.

    I looked at the E number but couldn't ID the carver reading it as either E-4 or E-9. Maybe @komokwa can read the syllabics?

    Sometimes the second designation (E -?) is missing and if that is the case, reading it as E-? 477 will give you four possible artists and as E -? 977, two others.

    Nice rock though.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
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  3. Potteryplease

    Potteryplease Active Member

    Might be a hunter, partially hiding behind a blind used to sneak up on an animal / seal.

    I don't think the numbers on the front were original but were added later for some classification/ inventory.

    I think what you've otherwise noted sounds accurate! Nice find.
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  4. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    looks like a man tanning a skin.........

    that's a rude place for those 9 numbers........ Blooey may be correct about it being a SIN !!

    Ti Mu Ti ......may be be the siggy.......

    E4-77...or71...?.... but there may be another number under the label....which does identify it as authentic Canadian Inuit art..

    let's call mark........... @Mark London ..!!
  5. all_fakes

    all_fakes Well-Known Member

    My first thought also was that it could be a blind, but a skin being tanned seems quite a reasonable interpretation.
    The "Canadian Eskimo Art" sticker is generally quite reliable.
  6. blooey

    blooey Well-Known Member

    So maybe Timothy?
    And just for clarification, even without said sticker this is absolutely an Inuit carving.
  7. all_fakes

    all_fakes Well-Known Member

    For sure.
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  8. wiscbirddog

    wiscbirddog Well-Known Member


    Would there be a way to buff the numbers off? Seems a shame to deface this beautiful piece. :(
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  9. blooey

    blooey Well-Known Member

    Luckily it is pretty simple on soapstone if you're "handy" and can match the sheen afterwards ...unfortunately the damage on other materials, metal and glass is more of a challenge as it was done with an electric engraving pencil. I've see those sets of numbers on lots of stuff - designed to prevent stolen property being "fenced".
  10. all_fakes

    all_fakes Well-Known Member

    My thoughts on removal of the numbers, having worked some with soapstone: soapstone is a highly variable material, depending on the amount of talc in it. I've had pieces of soapstone that were so soft they could be carved with one's fingernails; and others that had inclusions that would dull a knife.
    This piece doesn't look to have any inclusions, and though it is difficult to judge just how hard it is, if you wanted to try, I'd start by lightly sanding with 400 grit paper, see how that goes. If 400 takes off the numbers, sand very lightly with 600, and see if that matches the surface; If still too rough, next try 1200 or 1300 grit; if then still too coarse, go to jeweler's rouge. Then finish with a light coat of wax such as beeswax (I have an old supply of spermacetti wax which is no longer available). That should match the existing surface pretty well; that's how I've finished soapstone items that I've carved.
    NOTE: I am not a professional soapstone restorer, this is just what I'd do if it was mine....and before doing any of this, I'd wait to see if anybody smarter than me has a different opinion. If Mark London or Komokwa says not to touch it, believe them.
    And note that removal of the numbers will not be reversible; once you start, you'll have to finish the job. Oh - and it could be that a light coat of wax would hide the numbers enough that they don't bother you; and wax could be removed later if desired.
  11. moreotherstuff

    moreotherstuff Izorizent

    Wouldn't buffing the numbers off deface the piece? They are present. You didn't put them there, and don't know who did. Leave them alone.
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  12. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    not deface it per say ...but kill the patina , and be hard to match the rest of the carvings color..... imo
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  13. Potteryplease

    Potteryplease Active Member

    Holy cow! Or should I say, holy whale?

    Well, as someone who is currently reading Moby Dick (!), I say, that's amazing!
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  14. blooey

    blooey Well-Known Member

    the Inuit used shoe polish for wax so I wouldn't worry
  15. 2manybooks

    2manybooks Well-Known Member

    Rather than trying to polish the numbers out, a compromise might be to try using pigmented wax to fill in the engraved numbers. There are wax sticks for filling wood that come in a variety of colors. It probably wouldn't be invisible, but adequate to disguise the damage.
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  16. Mark London

    Mark London Well-Known Member

    Likely by Timothy Kutchaka (1924-?) whose disc number was E9-774.
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  17. all_fakes

    all_fakes Well-Known Member

    So, there you have a variety of opinions on what to do, or not to do, about the numbers that were added to the piece.
    I'm not going to offer an opinion at this point; I'm not sure what I'd do if it were mine; I'd have to look at it carefully, thinking about the existing patina; maybe practice on pieces of raw soapstone that I might have lying about....
    And it certainly could be that the numbers don't bother you that much.
    Sometimes one just takes pieces as they are, flaws, and additions being part of the history of the piece, as MOS suggested; and wax filler is certainly an option as I and others mentioned.
    I think it is a cute piece, and stands on its own, with or without the numbers.
  18. blooey

    blooey Well-Known Member

    Just carve/scrape/sand away the social insurance numbers and get it as smooth as the rest then give it some shoe polish. The numbers don't look very deep at all, so no big amount of material to remove. This is what a pro restorer (me) would do. No-one would ever know or even consider anything has been done.
  19. NaturallyArizona

    NaturallyArizona New Member

    Thank you all! I'm fascinated with the feedback given here.

    The numbers are certainly unsightly, and unfortunately placed.
    My preference would be not to see them. I'll either sand (after a bit of practice), or fill with a pigmented wax. I appreciate the thoughts and considerations with both ideas, thank you.

    It does seem like there is consensus that Timothy Kutchaka is the carver. Would there be any benefit in removing the sticker to determine if any additional numbers exist?

    Sure, a hunter behind a blind or even tanning a hide seem much more likely than a sled (I wanted to at least venture a guess). And either the blind, or tanning idea makes even more sense when you consider the second piece!
    They seem to be by different carvers, but very similar in style and appearance.
    The second one is large as well.
    It's about 12" x 6" and weighs about 20 lbs.
    When viewed together, might they possibly form a scene?
    Hunter behind a blind, then knifing the bear. Thoughts?
    The social insurance numbers are present on this piece as well, but not nearly as featured.
    Thank you Antiquers!

    hunter 1.jpg hunter 2.jpg hunter 3.jpg hunter 4.jpg hunter 5.jpg hunter 6.jpg hunter 7.jpg hunter 8.jpg
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  20. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    what Blooey said , now does seem to hold true.....it's a SIN #..

    Each carving is unto itself , so any scene is what u make of it.......

    yes, if u could heat up the fag and pull it back enuf to see if any other numbers are there that would confirm......
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