In a small island village on the Chukchi Sea, a tradition lives on in the artwork of the Inupiaq community. In Shishmaref, many of the 550 residents learn to carve when they are children by watching family members work the walrus ivory, whale baleen, fossilized whalebone, mastodon teeth and tusks that materialize from the nearby glaciers and sea.
Best known for their fossilized whalebone carvings, sculptures from Shishmaref are collected by art enthusiasts the world over. Carvings mostly depict traditional village life, including hunting, fishing drumming and dancing. These sculptures are often embellished with baleen, the black plates found in whale jaws, and ivory inlay. The carvers of Shishmaref are mostly men, but the women of the village are also renowned for their talent as skin sewers and exquisite beaders. From elaborate dolls to gloves and slippers, their work incorporate numerous locally harvested natural materials.
Known as the friendliest village in Alaska, a stay in Shishmaref gives visitors a true Alaskan experience. Visitors can stay at Dennis Sinnok’s apartment, which affords the comforts of home and a connection to the local artists, whom he represents at national art shows. And this small town does not slow down when the temperatures drop, the winter season brings out the snow machines for trips down to the Serpentine Hot Springs, an adventure not to be missed!