Coral Harbour carver in battle with cancer reflects on his craft

·2 min read
Carving is Daniel Shimout's passion and profession.  The 49-year-old from Coral Harbor has had to step away from his craft for the last three years while he battles cancer.  (Submitted by RJ Ramrattan - image credit)
Carving is Daniel Shimout's passion and profession. The 49-year-old from Coral Harbor has had to step away from his craft for the last three years while he battles cancer. (Submitted by RJ Ramrattan - image credit)

Daniel Shimout "never wanted to be famous," but with work now across Canada and as far as Switzerland, the Coral Harbour, Nunavut, born carver says "it's pretty cool."

In his 49 years, Shimout guesses he's completed over 900 carvings but his favourites are of a sailboat and a dog team. They remind him of going hunting on the land with his family.

While carving has been Shimout's lifeblood, and main source of income for the better part of two decades, he has had to forgo his passion for the last three years.

Six different cancers have infected his body and he's been too weak to practice his craft.

"Carving takes every muscle in your body including your brain," he said.

And the doctors recommended he step away from his art while he's in recovery.

Submitted by RJ Ramrattan
Submitted by RJ Ramrattan

Shimout, along with his wife Lisa, have spent the last three years traveling between Coral Harbour and Winnipeg for medical treatment.

Sometimes having to go back and forth as often as every two to three weeks.

"I miss carving. Sometimes I cry. I want to carve but right now I want to get healthy first, and then get back to carving."

When he is strong enough to carve, Shimout said he has two big whale vertebrae waiting for him.

He said he never plans what he's going to carve in advance.

"The carving has to talk to me," he said, describing how he takes his time to listen.

Before each of his 900 plus carvings, Shimout says he's prayed.

"I pray so the buyer will like it."

Though it sometimes means late nights to meet deadlines, Shimout says he never rushes through his work and always aims "to make them nice."

Submitted by RJ Ramrattan
Submitted by RJ Ramrattan

He carves primarily in soapstone but also uses antlers and bones when they're available.

When Shimout first started carving, it was in memory of his late father, himself a carving hobbyist.

Shimout never saw himself as a professional, but with encouragement from his wife and Toronto based art marketer RJ Ramrattan, he came to see carving as a way he could support his family.

Now he says he likes being known.

After learning strangers across the world were seeing his carvings, Shimout said he "was kind of smiling and blushing. My heart got warm and I said wow other countries like my work, I said, 'wow cool.'"

Submitted by RJ Ramrattan
Submitted by RJ Ramrattan

Without the income from selling his work, Shimout says the community has come together to help him and his family.

Once he regains his strength, his 25-year old son has told Shimout he wants to learn to carve too.

Shimout's 10-year old grandson has already taken on the craft and made a small soapstone polar bear.

"It's really cool," Shimout said. "He's a good little carver."

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