One of the three sons of master carver Lukta Qiatsuk, Palaya Qiatsuq began carving at the age of twelve and credits his father and other elder carvers as influences. From his father, he learned a deep respect for the land, and this admiration shows in his treatment of wildlife subjects.
The artist indicates that he has fun making art, and he likes to carve figurative works, with transformational and shamanic themes being his favourites. Other consistent themes in his work are traditional hunting scenes and hunters, animals and birds (particularly dancing owls). He carves with marble and serpentine, a metamorphic rock that ranges in color from yellow-green to brown to black. It is a very hard stone indigenous to Baffin Island, with a composition similar to jade. Sites for finding the stone are many miles east of Dorset. Although a hard stone, in skilled hands the serpentine offers the opportunity to achieve flowing forms, lines bold and delicate, as well as glistening, elegant finishes. At times he mixes his media, adding moose or caribou hide and/or antler to his stone carvings. Palaya has a recognizable style with frequent use of texture, such as deep grooves juxtaposed against broad smooth forms.
Palaya considers himself “a traditionalist with a mission.” He believes that if Inuit culture is to survive, the young people must be taught about the past, and he attempts to keep the traditional stories alive through his work. He hopes his work will not only teach his own people but also others about the Inuit culture.
As well as being a full-time carver for over 20 years, Palaya is frequently invited to conduct workshops and give carving demonstrations. He is a board member and arts committee member for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op.
Palaya’s exhibition history is impressive and lengthy. His work has been exhibited across Canada, the United States, France, Germany, and Switzerland. In 2006, for Canada Day, he was invited to represent Canada in London, England at events taking place at Canada House in Trafalgar Square. His work is in many private collections both in North American and in Europe.