Creation Date1931 – 1955
12.065 cm. L Item (Overall)
Description"Carved Ivory Needle Case. This four and three-fourths inch needle case is carved from fossilized ivory in the shape of a fish. The body of the fish is engraved with geometric designs, a type of design which was not used by early Eskimo carvers, but which became popular and then perfected after the arrival of outside settlers to the Eskimo settlements. The head of this fish is minutely carved to resemble closely a live fish, and it screws off to reveal a hollow inside the body of the fish where the needles were kept. These needle cases were especially important to native Eskimos since they had to carve each of their needles out of bone, an intricate carving task, and since they needed the needles to sew their clothes. Therefore, to protect these precious needles, they designed needle cases such as this one. It came from Nunivak, Alaska, and was given to me [Cleora C. Helbing] on Nov. 7, 1946 by Mrs. Stanley R. Stansberry."
There are 2 fish carved on the outside of the three dimensional fish that holds the needles.
According to Ronald Senungetuk, this Nunivak style carving is one of the best pieces in the collection representing 1950 work.
Ivory Carving has a long history in the Artic and Subarctic. All the utensils, tools, and weapons were made by hand from ivory and other natural materials such as horn, bone, and animal hides. These same materials were used to make decorative objects. Traditionally, these decorative objects were also miniatures so that they could be transported easily by these nomadic people.
The color of the ivory changes with age. Fossilized ivory may be several thousands of years old. Its color can range from golden to brown or even black. These rare color ivories are more precious to Eskimo carvers than new white ivory.
Related People and Organizations