The Baleen used in this artwork was harvested by Alaska Natives in strict accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is a by-product of a traditional subsistence lifestyle in which no materials are wasted. Most baleen used in Alaskan Native arts is from the bowhead whale. Baleen is the long plates of black fibrous in the mouth of non-toothed whales that acts as a filtering system to strain tiny krill from the water. Baleen is used for baskets, jewelry, and as often inlaid in the eyes of animal carvings. At the turn of the century, baleen was used for horse whips and corset stays. It takes special skill to work with baleen and only Alaskan Natives can use this material in their crafts. In order to protect this unique material, we suggest the following:

  • Once it arrives in your home, buff with a soft cloth to remove any lint or dust accumulated during travel. Dust frequently with a soft cloth or brush.
  • Oil at least twice a year with a soft cloth. Use a small amount of mineral oil and buff with a soft cloth to remove excess oil. You may have to oil more frequently if you live in a dry climate.
  • Keep away from heaters and direct sunlight.

When properly cared for, a basket should last for many years.

Random House / Grandfather Frost / Alaska Gallery

Russian American Company