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VIDEO: Inupiat artist Sylvester Ayek balances life, art

When it comes to rural Alaska, it doesn't get much more remote than King Island, nearly 100 miles west of Nome, in the Bering Strait. That's where Sylvester Ayek spent his younger years, learning the ways of a subsistence lifestyle in the remote community. 

Though he lives in Nome now, Ayek continues to live a largely subsistence lifestyle, venturing miles out onto the sea ice in order to hunt for seal, in much the same way as he was taught by his ancestors.

Another skill that Ayek was taught by his father is the art of wood and ivory carving, which he does to help subsidize his mostly-subsistence lifestyle.

"I make my living being an artist, but I spend so much time on (a) subsistence lifestyle, I hardly have any time to do any artwork," Ayek says.

Handmade arts and crafts website Etsy took notice of Ayek, featuring him recently on their blog and profiling his life and work in a brief video. In it, Ayek discusses how he grew up and how he learned to create his delicate jewelry and decorations from ivory. He hopes to find even more time to create.

"I'm thinking about finding better balance, you know, between subsistence lifestyle and doing my artwork," Ayek says. "I haven't been able to find a good balance as of now, but evidently ... I'm getting there."

You can see some of Ayek's work -- available for purchase -- at his Etsy page.