Totem Pole Carving: Norman Tait, Bringing a Log to Life
In 1985, photographer and writer Vickie Jensen spent three months with Nisga'a artist Norman Tait and his crew of young carvers as they transformed a raw cedar log into a forty-two-foot totem pole for the BC Native Education Centre. Having spent years recovering the traditional knowledge that informed his carving, Tait taught his crew to make their own tools, carve, and design regalia, and together they practiced traditional stories and songs for the pole-raising ceremony.
Totem Pole Carving shares two equally rich stories: the step-by-step work of carving and the triumph of Tait teaching his crew the skills and traditions necessary to create a massive cultural artifact. Jensen captures the atmosphere of the carving shed--the conversations and problem-solving, the smell of fresh cedar chips, the adzes and chainsaws, the blistered hands, the tension-relieving humor, the ever-present awareness of tradition, and the joy of creation. Generously illustrated with 125 striking photographs, and originally published as Where the People Gather, this second edition features a new preface from Jensen and an updated, lifetime-spanning survey of Tait's major works.
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About the Author
Vickie Jensen has collaborated with Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities since the early 1970s to document and revitalize languages and assist in First Nations work toward self-determination. Norman Tait (1941-2016), considered the foremost Nisga'a carver of his generation and the first Northwest Coast carver to have a solo exhibition at Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, cofounded the Klee Wyck Carvers school.