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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Anthropology

Arctic Studies Center

Ceremeonial Bowl
A ceremonial bowl collected from Cape Prince of Wales in 1935, National Museum of the American Indian collection. For more information, go to

Walrus ivory is a dense, precious sculptural material that for millennia has been carved into a nearly endless variety of forms essential to Arctic life, from harpoon heads to needle cases, handles, ornaments, buckles and many more. Naturalistic and stylized figures of animals and humans were made as charms, amulets and ancestral representations. Carvers today bring this conceptual heritage to new types of work.

During the week-long Material Traditions: Sculpting Ivory residency organized by the Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum in 2015, Alaska Native carvers Clifford Apatiki (St. Lawrence Island Yupik), Jerome Saclamana (Iñupiaq) and Levi Tetpon (Iñupiaq) studied historic ivory pieces from the Smithsonian’s Living Our Cultures exhibition and Anchorage Museum collection, and demonstrated how to process, design and shape walrus ivory into artwork. Art students, museum conservators, school groups, local artists and museum visitors participated throughout the week. The Anchorage residency was followed by a two-day community workshop in Nome taught by Jerome Saclamana and hosted by the Nome-Beltz High School. The educational videos presented here introduce the artists and document the materials, tools and techniques they use to make ivory artwork.

To learn more about Alaska Native cultures, please visit the exhibition website Sharing Knowledge at, where you can also find educational materials in the Resources section.

Ivory Sculptors
Alaska Native artists Levi Tetpon, Jerome Saclamana, Mary Johns and James Lane at the 2015 Sculpting Ivory residency. Photo by Wayde Carroll.


Introduction (1 video)

Meet the Artists & Students (4 videos)

Studying a Historic Bowl (1 video)

Materials (3 videos)

Cutting Ivory (1 video)

Tools (1 video)

Designing a Figure (1 video)

Shaping Ivory (2 videos)

Sanding (1 video)

Adding Details (1 video)

Project: Whale's Tail (1 video)

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