When the Northern Rankin Nickel Mines, which had effectively created the community of Rankin Inlet, closed in 1962, the government was anxious to encourage artists there to explore new, potentially marketable areas. Under the coordination of a federal government arts and crafts officer, the artists tried their hand at carving, sewing and ceramics.

By 1966, the Rankin Inlet Ceramics Project had produced a large collection of innovative pieces that drew on new techniques and traditional themes and designs. A market to sell them, however, didn't exist until March 1967, when a highly promoted Toronto exhibition provided Rankin Inlet ceramics with a instant national profile and critical success.

Though the work was critically praised, however, sales struggled. Perhaps the ceramics were priced too high, or perhaps the connection to traditional methods and materials was not clearly established in the public mind. Either way, the workshop struggled for a number of years until it closed in 1977.

The Matchbox Gallery, however, has been encouraging Rankin Inlet's artists to revisit ceramics since the early 1990s, with some promising results.