Over the past 55 years printers have had to make their own chops to indicate that they printed a particular print. The chop was cut from linoleum often from the floor tiles in the studios. The cut tile is then attached to a piece of wood so the printer can orient the chop properly on the printed impression. In the early days (up to and sometimes including 1974*) artists chops were used instead of their signatures. I assume that the printers themselves would carve the artists chops for the artists because of their abilities with sharp delicate operations. Some artists like Kananginak certainly had the ability to cut his own chops but this is conjecture.
As well as the signature chops there was also the igloo chop. The igloo chop indicates that the impression was printed by Kinngait printers in Cape Dorset or by traveling printers to various events, it is the official indication that the impression was instigated by Kinngait Studios/Dorset Fine Arts.
I am familiar with most prints executed from 1988 until present so I went through the early print archives (1959-1961) to familiarize myself with them, a real treat. In this day and age of corporate and product branding, Kinngait was ahead of the curve. The difference is of course that since people had to make each chop by hand there was a tendency for uniqueness and I want to illustrate that here.
1974 Wallie Brennan arrived and brought with him the Tamarind sensibility. By having the actual artist signing the impressions themselves, it provided a way for the artist to personally approve each impression. The chop signatures were applied by the printers and not the artists so it could be suggested that the artists had no idea of what was done to their image/design, taking it yet another step away from their control. Everyone knows that the printers cut the blocks and print the editions, so the artists really have nothing at all to do with this process. But since it is all done transparently within the studios and in the community, the artists are often happy to have the printers execute their images on their behalf. It is part of the circle of effort inherent to the co-operative structure.
I know what people are going to say and rightly so. Those of you not familiar with syllabic orthography are going to want to know which impressions these chops are associated with and what year, who the artist is and who is the printer . However, my intention is to show you in a graphic way of how idiosyncratic and beautiful the chops are and how the igloo chop has evolved over the early years.
The second last illustration has four chops on the print. The top is the artist Ohotaq Mikkigak, the printers chop Lucta, the igloo chop in black ink and lastly the Eskimo Arts Council chop which reads na ma (soft ka) tu or "good enough". This chop and sometimes a blind stamp were added to the print as a way of authorization by the council to show that this group selected this print edition to be included for sale.
Notice as well the second last line of chop images, the two on the right. The upper chop is the artist Parr. The second chop below that is the printer's chop, Lukta. On the far right example, Kenojuak's chop is on the top, below that is the printers chop Talu. After lots of conversations with Joemee Takpaungai it is thought that this is in fact another version of the printer Lucta's chop. Tulie (also Tuliq/Tulik) was a carver and drawer that was loosing his sight and eventually went blind. In the 1961 catalog there is a chop with Tudlik's name, perhaps this was an artists signature chop and not a printers chop? Later in the same 1961 catalog there is a well known image of Tudlik's, a hunter about to harpoon a seal and his chop is at the top of the stack of other chops, this is the position of the artists signature chop.
Does anyone out there know who designed the Eskimo Arts Council chop?
There are other interesting evolutions as well. The WBEC chop shown here.
This "blind" chop appears on all current prints published by Kinngait Studios and Dorset Fine Arts. I have seen very thin versions of this chop well as the above fat WBEC chop. When I find a good reference I will post the thin version for comparison.
The process of chopping an impression