I used to carve beside my dad in the 1960s when I was about seven or eight years old, with files and saws on caribou antler. In the late 1980s I started turning little pieces of soapstone into little birds. With all the oil companies in Tuktoyaktuk then, I sold lots of carvings. When I was 29, I moved to Yellowknife to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time artist.
I make most of my carvings into animals I see when I am out hunting or the cultural things I see, like drum dances or people and how they dress traditionally. My inspiration comes from the pictures I see in my mind as how the drum dancers or animals look and move – I try to follow the shape of stone and carve that image.
White soapstone is fun to work with and I would say the green stone is nice, too. It’s soft and you can do a lot of things with it. While white stone finish is good it breaks and chips. Black stone is good, too, but harder to get. I just use whatever I get my hands on. All carvers have different styles and mine is doing as much detail work as possible. I am trying more realistic human shapes and capturing human expressions, which is hard work.
Carving is like a get away for me. When I carve, I forget everything but the piece and let my mind go and my hands take over. The next generation of carvers is coming along well but it is a mistake to try and rush things. When I first started I wanted to make money, too, but if you learn to take your time and do the best job you can – the money will come later.
Derrald Taylor was born fourth of seven children in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, a small community on the shores of the Arctic Ocean with a population of one thousand people. Growing up in Tuktoyaktuk, he spent much of his time hunting and fishing in the lifestyle of his ancestors.
Born into an artistic family, Derrald credits his father, Bobby, for instilling an interest in carving at an early age. Derrald would watch his father and then practice with hand tools on antlers and whalebone. Eventually, he progressed to soapstone and now uses all three materials to create his works of art. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Derrald began using power tools to craft his artwork. He still finishes each piece by hand.
Derrald's carvings reflect a hunter’s knowledge in his precise depiction of Arctic animals such as caribou, muskox, beluga whales and polar bears. His ability to capture the essence of the animal he is portraying demonstrates a firsthand intimacy with its characteristics and anatomy. His work is also inspired by his people and their culture. A familiar subject of his are Inuvialuit Drum Dancers playing in traditional dress.
Working from Frozen Rock Studios, a carving collective in Yellowknife, Derrald spends much of his time creating commissioned pieces for collectors around the world.