Process

Making the Art

A finished work of art is the final stage of a long journey. Traditional woodcarving takes a specialized set of skills that involves cultural, technical and creative knowledge. 

Cultural Skills

Artists learn traditional knowledge from many sources, often from family, community members and peers. Additional knowledge may come from specialized art schools, coastal carving events, formal and informal mentorships, and research into west coast art collections in museums.

From Start to Finish

Step 1. Conceptualizing

Once an idea has been conceptualized, the artist might begin preparing material or might instead start on a drawing. Traditional artists are inspired by the teachings of their culture, their observations of the world, the materials they use, and the work of other artists.

Salmon design

Whale fin design

Thunderbird design

Step 2. Preparation

Once a piece of material has been selected it needs to be brought to the carving site where its basic shape is roughed out. During this time the artist decides how best to 'engineer' the cuts to stabilize the material, makes sure the piece is symmetrical and flat where needed, prepares the approach for carving, and starts to manage the drying process. 

Removal by chainsaw

Manoeuvring material

Removal by Chainsaw

Using the hoist

Moving the material

Levelling the surface

Step 3. Blocking

The design is transferred onto the material with a pencil and a chainsaw is used to block out/rough out the basic shape of the design. As the project progresses the artist will re-transfer the design several times and continue carving it down until it's time to use hand tools for finer work.

Seawolf design

Seawolf design

Bear design

Thunderbird design

Eagle design

Thunderbird design

Step 4. Carving

Traditional carving tools such as adzes, chisels and knives are used to refine the shape. This stage is done by hand and the process is gradual as the design becomes more and more refined. The final 20% of the project can take up the same amount of time as the first 80%. During this time the artist continues to control the drying process and make adjustments to accommodate the changing needs of the material.

Seawolf design

Westerly Wind design

Eagles design

Kingfisher design

Eagle design

Thunderbird design

Step 5. Finishing

The surface of each piece is either sanded, 'blade' finished, or a combination of the two. A blade finish is a textured surface made by creating multiple even blade cuts in a pattern. Paint choice and application is influenced by the artist's personal tastes and cultural tradition. The art might be left unpainted, highlighted, or fully coated with paint. Painting takes multiple coats to ensure a smooth, even application and crisp edges of the lines.

Eagles design

Raven design

Wolf design

Seawolf design

Eagle design

Seagull design

Step 6. Oiling

A sealer is applied to protect the material, bring out colours and increase visibility of the grain. Any excess is wiped away so it doesn't pool. The effect is transformative.

Seagull wing design

Eagles design

Whale/wolf design

Westerly Wind design

Bear design

Salmon design