Carving the Future: Local carver donates tools, material to aspiring artist

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 7:25 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -It was a special Giving Tuesday for 19-year-old Donald Crombie after meeting Robert McCoy-Apangalook, who not only gave Crombie all the tools needed to make traditional-style carvings, but took him under his wing.

Crombie said he picked up carving about five years ago. His first piece was a simple stone with a friend’s initials carved in it.

Since then, he’s made some progress in honing his skill. Usually, he works with exotic woods making simple jewelry pieces like pendants and crosses. He said he’ll spend at least a couple of hours a day chipping away at his workplace, normally not knowing what he’s going to make.

“I just, you know, let carving just basically guide me while making whatever. You know, like I didn’t plan,” he said. “I haven’t really been taught, you know, how to carve or draw. I just figure it out on my own.”

He said he spent some time in art classes learning the basics, but for most of his artistic journey, he’s been alone.

About an hour away, McCoy-Apangalook spends hours in his workshop carving away for his livelihood. He’s been carving for just about as long as Crombie has been alive.

McCoy-Apangalook, also known by his Native name, Utuqsiq, given to him by his grandfather, said the more years that go by, the less young people he sees picking up the craft.

There are many artists in his family. He said his uncles, particularly Ron Apangalook, inspired him to focus on carving.

“I realized I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my uncle Ron, who taught me and gave me all the materials that I needed to start carving,” he said, “and I thought, well I’d like to do the same for someone else if I want to keep this tradition alive.”

He said he’d heard about the idea of Giving Tuesday for some time. After a hard summer of adapting his business model to the pandemic, he said he felt thankful for what he had. Now with an abundance, he said it was time to share.

So he took to social media, putting out a call to his community that he wanted to do a giveaway for Giving Tuesday in November. He prepared a kit for everything a young artist would need to get into carving including: a gallon bag of fossilized walrus ivory and whalebone, a six-foot piece of baleen and a brand new Dremel 3000 — the same kind he uses for all his work.

He asked for nominations on who should get it, and Crombie was suggested three times.

Crombie still hasn’t used the new Dremel yet, he said he’s saving that for after he can go to spend a few days with McCoy-Apangalook to learn how to use them.

Now, he’s just glad that he doesn’t have to figure out carving all by himself anymore.

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