Seal Skin Drying
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Notes from DaVic Gallery: ‘Seal Skin Drying’ – “We prepare skins in different ways for different conditions. We remove fat and dry them. Frames help us make the skins smooth and free from wrinkles.” Jennie Lennie, Sarah Ovatuatia Philip and Sally Qimmiu’naaq Webster, 1995.
While scraped skins are drying, they are stretched to make them more elastic. This is done by pegging a skin to the ground, or by lashing them to a square or “D” shaped frame. Skins that are intended for boot soles are stretched less vigorously so they remain thick and less elastic. Once a skin has stretched and dried on its frame, it is softened through a process that involves shaping the skin into a ball with the hair to the inside, then stamping on it repeatedly for about half an hour. It is then spread out and smoothed with a scraper to remove wrinkles and rubbed and twisted until it is soft. Disturbed hair is dampened and then combed to be sure it all lies in one direction.
Inuit wear varying layers and weights of caribou or seal skin clothing and footwear in order to suit changes in climate from one season to another. Seal skin works well as protection in a summer climate of mostly wet snow, and could be effective throughout the year. Caribou-skin, a warmer and less waterproof material works well for the cold, dry, winter climate, with powder snow.