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Iqaluit gallerist becomes 1st Inuk to be able to issue trademarks for Inuit-made art

Lori Idlout, the owner of Iqaluit's Carvings Nunavut, has become the first Inuk to be able to issue the Igloo Tag Trademark for Inuit-made art, the Inuit Art Foundation announced late last week.

Carvings Nunavut becomes the 1st new licensee of the Igloo Tag Trademark in 45 years

Lori Idlout poses with a copy of the signed license agreement, in Inuktitut syllabics. Idlout is the first new retailer under the agreement in 45 years, and the first Inuk ever. (Inuit Art Foundation)

Lori Idlout, the owner of Iqaluit's Carvings Nunavut, has become the first Inuk to be able to issue the Igloo Tag Trademark for Inuit-made art, the Inuit Art Foundation announced late last week.

The Igloo Tag Trademark is used to certify that a piece of art is Inuit-made. Carvings Nunavut becomes the first new licensee of the tag in 45 years — and the seventh active one. It's also the first new licensee to sign an agreement since the Inuit Art Foundation was given control of the trademark from the federal government last year.

"I was so excited, just because of who I feel I am," said Idlout. "I'm very proud to be Inuk and I'm very proud of my heritage, and I really want other Inuit to be as proud as I am to be Inuk. So it was pretty exciting to be told that I'm the first Inuk licensee."

The agreement means that Inuit artwork sold through Carvings Nunavut will carry the Igloo Tag, certifying that the work is indeed made by an Inuit artist. It began as a federal government program in 1958, designed to protect Inuit artists from mass-produced work that copies Inuit style and designs.

Idlout poses with the staff of Carvings Nunavut. The family-owned business has bought and sold Inuit art for about a decade, Idlout said. (Inuit Art Foundation)

Idlout said that the trademark is further verification for her family-owned business, which has operated for about a decade. Carvings Nunavut buys directly from Inuit artists, and also provides tools, materials, and in some cases small loans for artists to create their work.

"It's such an honour and it's such a privilege, because to be able to confirm, to be able to say, 'Yes, we are buying Inuit art, we are selling Inuit art, other Inuit are buying art from us,'" she said. "We're able to just say we're part of a business that creates a market for Inuit talent."

The Igloo Tag. The tag was introduced in 1958 by the federal government, but was updated in 2017, when it was taken over by the Inuit Art Foundation. (Inuit Art Foundation)

The agreement was signed while Inuit Art Foundation representatives were in Iqaluit for the Nunavut Arts Festival, conducting community consultations with artists. Idlout also signed the agreement in both English and Inuktitut syllabics, something that she called "really exciting."

"I think that is a very important thing," she said. "Because Inuit are so talented, Inuit are so creative and so capable.

"I'm proud to say that these pieces of art that are bought from our store are made by the amazing creative Inuit talent that we have in Nunavut."

With files from Toby Otak

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