Baleen, beluga spines and sun-bleached bone discs: beautiful natural materials found on the shore of Salliq (Coral Harbour), Nunavut. Maker Tarralik Duffy of Ugly Fish Design gathers these treasures and transforms them into jewellery that reaffirms a connection to the sea and land, with all its profound beauty. Using natural materials she finds or sources from her community, Tarralik sets traditional materials into modern designs. “I’ve never purchased bones and the happiest place on earth for me is on the beach or tundra walking around looking to see what treasures I can find to reclaim from death and decay.” Looking to the artists and craftspeople of her community, Tarralik credits the women in her family for instilling within her the skills she uses today. Inspired by the materials available to her, including beads, naturally-shed caribou antler, found bone and fur, she calls Salliq “a measure of wealth” for its community and its gifts.
Tarralik’s jewellery only begins with the found-object, then it must be treated, dyed or left with its colour, and finally transformed into a design that is guided by the object itself. Tarralik works with the natural materials, and uses silver or brass to complete the design. From worked pieces of baleen transformed into claws or geometric forms, to polished antler and narwhal tusk, Tarralik’s designs are informed by her creativity, rather than a strict adherence to a particular form. Each piece is unique, bringing together traditional and modern forms. Tarralik is inspired by the indigenous designs of the past, yet has her personal interpretation that is distinctly Ugly Fish.
Tarralik is also a graphic designer and is inspired by pop culture, with her Itii Pow! (ᐃᑏ Pow!) design bringing together pop culture classic E.T. and Inuktitut syllabics to highlight her tongue-in-cheek humour, as well as portraying visually the blending of worlds for the Inuit. A juxtaposition between traditional life on the land and the present of pop culture and modern living, Tarralik subverts expectations through bright, bold graphics in her designs.
Ugly Fish Design was featured at Paris Fashion Week alongside eight other Inuit designers in late February and March 2019.
This article was published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Studio Magazine