Unlike Inuit sculpture, art prints from the Canadian Arctic are a twentieth century innovation in Inuit Eskimo art. One of the most significant events that happened during the development of contemporary Inuit art was when Canadian James Houston taught the Inuit to make art prints by incising designs into linoleum tiles, stone blocks and stencils from sealskins. He had previously studied printmaking in Japan since the Japanese were considered innovators in this art process.
One day in 1957, Houston met up with a local Inuit art carver by the name of Osuitok Ipeelee in Cape Dorset. Ipeelee had been studying the identical printed images of a sailor’s head on two cigarette packages he had. Houston demonstrated the process of printmaking to the Inuit carver by rubbing ink onto one of Ipeelee’s ivory tusk carvings and made an impression of it on a piece of toilet paper. Upon seeing the resulting graphic, the Inuit artist said, “We could do that.” This resulted in the birth of Eskimo Inuit art prints.
The Cape Dorset Inuit artists soon integrated the new print making methods into their Inuit art and by 1960, their printmaking was a growing business. Eskimo Inuit art prints by early artists such as Pitseolak Ashoona and Jamasie Teevee became much sought after artwork. Because of the success of Cape Dorset, other Inuit communities were encouraged to follow its example. So in addition to Inuit sculpture, art prints became another form of Eskimo Inuit art that found commercial success. Cape Dorset has an annual release of Inuit art prints each year and often sell out. Another Inuit community known for their Inuit art prints is Holman.
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