Project: ARTShops 2019 Iñupiaq Kammak Making Workshop
Alaska State Council on the Arts Partnership
Story by: Marjorie Kunaq Tahbone
The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs.
Kammak for EVERYONE! is a project that brings seamstresses together to learn the fading practice of making traditional boots called kammak. The goal is to bring back the skills necessary to make kammak so that everyone has the capacity to make their own and for others. As a traditional Iñupiaq dancer I try to make my own regalia but I had a hard time making my own kammak because of the specific skills required to crimp the ugruk soles. With this course we flew in expert seamstress Mary Lou Sours to teach us from start to finish how to make patterns, crimp ugruk, and sew the kammak together. It was a 7-day intensive course that happened in June, and you better believe we used every bit of the 24 hour sunlight to complete our kammak in time.
Through the course there were many trial and errors, frustrated students, and sore hands. But our instructor put all her support in us and guided our efforts toward success. It is a very advanced skill to be able to crimp hard bottom soles from ugruk, and the students were learning with little to no knowledge of the material. But throughout this difficult and taxing process we grew together as women and were able to help and support each other.
My goal from this class is to teach others how to make their own kammak. I have already two classes scheduled to teach in Unalakleet and Nome in Spring 2020. I know that one day soon EVERYONE will have a pair of their very own kammak