Totem Pole Carving: Bringing a Log to Life

Totem Pole Carving: Bringing a Log to Life

by Vickie D. Jensen
     
 

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The totem pole—in all its power and beauty—is a distinctive and widely recognized form of traditional Northwest Coast Native art. Once nearly lost, this art form is alive and thriving today. In this unique book, Vickie Jensen collaborates with renowned Nisga’a artist Norman Tait and his crew of young carvers to document the actual process of

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Overview

The totem pole—in all its power and beauty—is a distinctive and widely recognized form of traditional Northwest Coast Native art. Once nearly lost, this art form is alive and thriving today. In this unique book, Vickie Jensen collaborates with renowned Nisga’a artist Norman Tait and his crew of young carvers to document the actual process of bringing a log to life.

The intimate text and 125 photographs capture the charged atmosphere in which the pole is carved—the smell of fresh cedar chips, the long days and blistered hands, the camaraderie, the pride in solving problems, the ever-present awareness of tradition, the joy of creation.

Norman Tait teaches his apprentices that carving a pole requires more than time and labor, more than artistic and emotional commitment, more than a grasp of tools and techniques. The process invoves their cultural background and very being. The apprentices must make their own carving tools, design their regalia, and practice traditional songs, dances, and drumming. All these experiences culminate in the traditional ceremonies to celebrate the raising of the completed totem pole.

This book was originally published in hardcover as Where the People Gather: Carving a Totem Pole.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

American Indian Quarterly
An important record of late twentieth—century pole carving that will be appreciated by future historians of Northwest Coast art.

Museum Anthropology
Engrossing to read, filled with insights into the personal side of the art.

Library Journal
Totem poles are one of the most dramatic and well-known types of woodcarving. Jensen, who has worked on Native American reservations for 25 years, documents the creation of a 42-foot pole for the Native Education Centre in Vancouver, BC, by Nisga'a carver Norman Tait and several members of his family. The creation of a totem pole requires physical strength and artistic skill; every aspect of its design has a great deal of cultural significance on both tribal and clan levels. Jensen takes readers through the entire project and explains numerous technical aspects, which will interest craftspeople and anthropology types. Unfortunately for woodworkers, the book lacks design patterns and photos of the entire, completed pole and traditional tools. Students of native culture would have also benefited from a clear picture or diagram of the button-covered blankets that are traditionally made by female relatives for the carvers to wear while erecting the pole. Those concerns aside, this title does a great job of documenting a lost art and illustrating its cultural significance. Originally published in hardcover as Where the People Gather: Carving a Totem Pole, this is recommended for in-depth collections. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780295983684
Publisher:
University of Washington Press
Publication date:
02/28/2004
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.46(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Vickie Jensen is a writer, editor, and photographer who has worked for twenty-five years on Native reserves in Canada. She and her husband, Jay Powell, produced more than thirty schoolbooks in a variety of Native languages as part of programs to preserve their heritage.

University of Washington Press

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