Alaska, Soapstone Carving

Speaker is from Anchorage, AK; he is an American Indian man, age and education unknown. The interview took place in 1968, by DARE’s founder and former chief editor Frederic G. Cassidy.

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CASSIDY: The.  . . soapstone carvings. Are those done, have you done any of those?


CASSIDY: You have, mm-hmm.

INFORMANT: It’s pretty much like ivory carving only it takes more care—

CASSIDY: More care.

INFORMANT: —to work on, uh, soapstone.

CASSIDY: Why, why should it [xx]?

INFORMANT: Because} it is brittle.

CASSIDY: Oh, it is.

INFORMANT: And, uh, very soft. Uh, you, you can hack on, uh, ivory, but you can’t do that on soapstone. It’d chip too easily.

CASSIDY: Uh huh, well then you have to use your files on those.


CASSIDY: And then once you’ve done the filing and so on, how do you smooth it down?

INFORMANT: Uh, we, I use, uh, fine [file] to finish it up and then use, uh, sandpaper or emery cloth.

CASSIDY: Mm-hmm. I think you said that, um, quite often the thing that is carved is determined by the shape of the piece of stone that was [that’s] carving.

INFORMANT: Yes, uh, sometimes, uh, uh, an ivory carver or a soapstone carver will take advantage of the shape of the stone and, uh, try to visualize what it’d look like, uh, maybe a polar bear or wolf. He’d make it just the way it is.