Mathew Flaherty

Mathew Flaherty

Mathew Flaherty was born in Iqaluit on February 13th, 1998.   His father, Nick Cooper, was a maintainer for the federal government and a construction worker.  His mother is Lizzie Flaherty originally from Grise Fiord.  Lizzie is the daughter of Renee Flaherty, one of the Inuit who were relocated to the high Arctic from Northern Quebec in the 1950’s-60’s.  Robert Flaherty is Mathew’s great grandfather who is the master storyteller and filmmaker of Nanook of the North – Robert Flaherty married an Inuk from Northern Quebec.  His great grandparents on the other side are Kingmeata and Etidloie Etidloie, both talented artists who displayed their talents using printmaking, watercolours, acrylics, coloured pencils, felt pens and carving stone –
Mathew’s parents separated when he was 3.  He lived with his mother until he was 4 and then moved in with his father.  Mathew’s father, Nick, started carving wood carvings when he was a child and when he returned to Iqaluit he started making stone carvings.   Nick used to make larger pieces like birds and musk ox.   Matthew made his first carving when he was 7.  His Dad was carving a bird but the soapstone was fractured and the piece was getting smaller.  Mathew took it and made a walking polar bear carving that he gave to his mother.

In high school, Mathew studied jewelry making.  His father bought him the tools to make the jewelry and he got his own studio.  Mathew made a lot of jewelry at this time and sold these pieces to galleries.   He also made a 16 foot kayak during his high school days. He used plastic from flooring cut into strips for the ribs and hardwood for the frame.  He covered the frame with ballistic nylon and coated it with polyurethane.  The ballistic nylon prevents the kayak from being punctured.  At this time, he went hunting with his father and also on his own.  He feels good to be out on the land.

When Mathew was 18, he started carving more seriously.  He moved to Kinngait (Cape Dorset) when he was 20 where he lived with and apprenticed under his grandfather Etulu Etidloie.  Etulu made pencil drawings of foxes and encouraged Mathew to carve foxes.  Etulu taught him how to carve geese, loons, fox and wolf carvings   Atsiaq Alashua, the grandfather of his ex-girlfriend, taught him how to do details on the wolf carvings.   Atsiaq Alashua encouraged him to make the legs thin and include muscles and joints.  Sometimes Matthew carves wolves with thicker legs because the thinner legs are fragile.  Mathew has also carved with Parr Parr.  Mathew likes carving realistically detailed animals and birds.  Human figures are more difficult to carve with the face details.  People in Cape Dorset have been helpful and willing to share their knowledge.

Mathew has been selling his art to different buyers and the Co-op in Kinngait.  He likes carving wolves and foxes, which are challenging subjects.  He has to be very steady when carving the legs with the grinder.  His favourite carvings have been of a howling wolf and a smiling wolf.  He also carves bears and has carved mermaids that have a lot of details.

Today finding housing is a challenge because there is a housing crisis in Nunavut. Not everyone who applies is successful in getting a house. Matthew has not been able to get his own housing and is currently living with a friend.  Having his own house would help him live his life more fully.  Being homeless makes his future uncertain.  He has thought of moving back to Iqaluit to live with his family or to Ottawa where his younger sister resides and he could work in construction while carving part time. Carving is so important to his well being and he hopes for a future in his art form.

Work by this artist