Northwest Coast Art

​​​​​​​​The JayHawk Institute

Scott Jensen / Speaking Cedar - Studio
Bellingham Washington 360-393 -7676

Lelooska Foundation

Lee Valley Tools  - Events

​Beaver Lake Woodworks - 425-391-0661

Master's Carving School  - 425 - 255-2433

University of Alaska Southeast - Art 285 / 263

Sealaska Heritage

Gitanmaax (Kitanmax) School of Northwest Coast Indian Art

The Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art

​​​​​​​​​​​The Port Townsend School of Woodworking​

Steve Brown

Steve has taught classes in traditional carving since 1975, and has worked in Native and non-Native communities in Southeast Alaska and Washington State. Teaching venues have included the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska, the University of Alaska/Juneau and Sitka, the villages of Hoonah, Craig, Wrangell, Metlakatla, and Kake, Alaska, the Shuswap School of Woodcarving, and the Longhouse at the Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington Steve has participated in extensive totem pole carving projects in Wrangell, Alaska, and for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington. 

Nathan Gilles

Nathan Gilles is an artist/educator living and working in northwest Washington. Nathan became interested in Native art in the late 1980's, and his passion grew into a quest to learn, contemplate and perpetuate aspects of Northwest Coast aboriginal art and culture. Although Nathan is non-Native, he has a particular background amongst the Coast Salish people. Since 1987, Nathan has spent extensive time studying under a host of friends and elders in native communities across the state of Washington and southern British Columbia. Nathan explains he has learned a great deal while living and working on various Native reservations in western Washington, where he has been employed as both a high school teacher and an artist creating ceremonial and monumental art works.

2017 Classes

NW Canoe Paddles

Instructor - Nathan Gilles
5 Days, All Levels
Aug 28, 2017 – Sep 1, 2017 
Carve 2 full sized canoe paddles in the Makah-Nuuchahnulth and Tlingit styles. 
Register by July 13, 2017

Class Description

Canoe paddles are some of the most deceptively simple sculptures of the Northwest Coast maritime tradition. Subtle shapes, changes in thickness, and differing tribal/regional characteristics are all melded together in their forms. Plus they are supremely effective in their given task; propelling a canoe with a minimum of effort. For this the balance of the weight between grip and blade are key. The taper of the blade makes the paddle feel light in weight and springy in action. There are many subtle differences in the range of tribal paddle styles, but we will focus on two types in this class; Tlingit style and the Makah/Nuuchahnulth style. The Tlingit paddle, like other northern examples, is a one-piece design, meaning that the horizontal top grip is carved integrally with the rest of the paddle. The Makah-Nuuchahnulth paddle is a two-piece design, where the top grip is a separate element that is mortised to fasten the grip to the end of the paddle.
In profile, the two paddle styles are nearly the same. In both, the center grip is the thickest part of the paddle, which tapers from that grip in each direction, toward the tip and toward the upper grip. The result is a bow-like form that flexes just enough to give each stroke a little spring. The upper grip of each of these types is a basically a cylinder, slightly smaller in diameter than the thickest part of the paddle at the center grip. 

Head-on, though, these two paddle types differ in particular, apparent ways, as can be seen in the accompanying images. Each type has its widest part of the blade at about ¾ of the paddle length, but beyond that they differ in some interesting subtle ways.

Traditional paddles from these regions were made out of spruce, yew, and yellow cedar. We will be using yellow cedar planks cut to seven inches wide and about 1 ½ inches thick, to accommodate the need for strength in the center area. Length will be about five foot six, though smaller ones for display purposes will be possible, too. The full size ones will be paddles made for use, not merely display, where the center thickness would not be an issue, but they will also display well on a wall at home.

We will make use of a band saw to cut out the silhouette of the paddle and make the basic tapers in the profile. From there, adzes, crooked knives, box scrapers, block planes, and sandpaper, if desired, will be used to complete the shaping of the paddles. For those who get their paddle to the final stage of carving and finish, we can consider painting patterns to decorate the surface. This will be a secondary goal, with the primary objective being to create a paddle of faithful traditional form for each of these two historical types.

Carving - Classes and Schools