A Totem Pole History: The Work of Lummi Carver Joe Hillaire

By Pauline Hillaire; Gregory P. Fields | Go to book overview

7 I Look to the Old People
Reflections on Joe Hillaire and Carving

SCOTT KADACH’ āAK’U JENSEN

ONE SUMMER DAY I WAS SITTING AT MY KITCHEN table and a sudden thought came into my head: “I’m going to carve a totem pole.” I was in my twenties, had worked many different jobs, and hadn’t felt fulfilled by any of them. This thought about carving was odd enough in that I had no experience with it and knew next to nothing about Northwest Coast art. Even stranger was that I got up from the table that day and went down to the Bellingham Art Museum and bought Bill Holm’s book Northwest Coast Indian Art, which at that time was a new book (now in its sixteenth printing). I went to the lumber yard and picked out some wood and then stopped by the hobby shop and bought some X-acto blades. First I tried carving some flat work with the inadequate tools I had chosen. I remember going up to the University of British Columbia, where Mungo Martin and Bill Reid were carving the beautiful totems that are still standing up there. I looked in the carving shed and saw their carving chips, which were as big as my hand, and it made me wonder, “What kind of tools are they using?” I went into the museum looking specifically at all the tools in its collection and then returned home

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