Ursula Paniyak

The late Ursula Paniyak was a Cup’ik doll maker from Chevak, Alaska, a Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta community of about 1,000 people in Southwestern Alaska.

Ursula learned to make dolls from her mother, Rosalie Paniyak, originator, in the 1950s, of the “Chevak” doll. Both women are widely recognized for their talent and humor in creating dolls with very distinctive characteristics - pinched sewn sealskin faces or “ugly face dolls” and always engaged in some sort of common daily task such as gathering berries, hauling game animals, performing a traditional dance, or even using a cell phone. The dolls are made using cotton fabrics and scraps of animal skins that are legally harvested by the Alaska Native hunters to use for food, art and handicrafts.

The Paniyak’s have inspired many other Chevak area artists with these quirky and imaginative dolls. Rosalie and Ursula’s dolls are treasured by discerning collectors and may be found in private collections around the world as well as in the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

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