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The Q? Blog

They Had the Guts: Local Youth Experiment with Gutskin — Yes, that's Right, Gutskin

by Colleen Popson -- Jan 29, 2015
Photo of Q?rius educator Colleen Popson

Colleen Popson is an educator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, developing and facilitating activities and programs for Museum visitors...

A boy shows off his hog-gut art at the 'Do You Have the Guts?' workshop. Smithsonian Institution photo.
A boy shows off his hog-gut art at the 'Do You Have the Guts?' workshop. Smithsonian Institution photo.

A group of local teens and tweens got crafty with hog intestines at a recent art workshop in Q?rius. Inspired by the ingenuity of those living in the Arctic who for generations have used gutskin from marine mammals to make parkas, bags, windows and more, workshop participants crafted their own special creations to take home.

Teens handle hog intestines during the workshop. Smithsonian Institution photo.Participants in the “Do You Have the Guts?" workshop in December listened as expert Igor Krupnik, curator of Arctic and Northern Ethnology at the National Museum of Natural History, explained how gutskin’s special durability and weatherproofing qualities aid survival in the cold, wet north — it’s the original GoreTex™. They also saw prime gutskin objects from the Museum’s collection — hats, a small parka, bags, and a model kayak with hunter. They even talked via video conference to contemporary artists at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska who carry on their ancestors’ traditions working with gutskin. Because marine mammal intestines are no longer easy to come by, these artists also work with hog and sheep intestines.

Having seen the special applications of the material up close in both historic and contemporary contexts, the teens and tweens jumped right in and started experimenting. They applied the guts to balloons and wire frames to make a wide range of their own creations — masks, bowls, pendants, and lamps. When asked what it was like to work with hog guts, one participant remarked, “It’s great! It’s kind of gross, but that’s what makes it fun.” 



Watch Video: Creating a Ceremonial Gut Parka (includes fascinating archival video footage)

Browse Smithsonian's Alaska Native Collections (features some objects made of gutskin)

Categories: Q?rius News
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