Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A good find

During a very much needed tidying session this morning, I picked up a book and put it on a bookshelf and then noticed its neighbour - a book on the art of the first peoples of the Pacific coast of Canada. I took it off the shelf and it returned me instantly to the two years I spent teaching on Vancouver Island in the early 1970s.

Looking again, I remembered how much I had loved the stylised, dramatic, graphic representations in the masks, totems and other objects - mostly in black and white - produced by the Cowichan people. I haven't thought about them for so long, although I don't know why, considering how much I've been playing with black and white recently. Perhaps this visual treat from more than 40 years ago is the source of this current preoccupation - who knows how the mind works?

Of course, I stopped the tidying to look at the book, and then to google ... who wouldn't? Now I thought I'd share with you some of the images in the book and the websites I came across.

This is one of the most dramatic images from the book  - a woven spruce root hat from the Tlingit of the northwest coast of the mainland of British Columbia...

Putting traditional art of the Cowichan people of British Columbia into google yielded a lovely montage of photographs and this website:

It provides an amazing list of artists that I will investigate at my leisure. It also gives a large hint about how far the art of this area has gone in the 40 plus years since I lived there..

When I think more widely, I also find it quite fascinating that the art of first peoples across the world shares so many of the same elements - simplicity of image, stylisation and of course references to their complex belief systems ... even more to investigate and explore.

PS the book is by Bill Holm and is called Northwest Coast Indian Art - google him and his book too and you should get another wonderful photo montage.


  1. When we lived in the USA I used to subscribe to a fantastic magazine: American Indian Art magazine I always enjoyed the similarities and the differences between the art of all the different First Nations in the areas all over the USA.
    We never got to Vancouver, but I've wanted to visit that area ever since reading Jonathan Raban's book Passage to Juneau.

    1. Very many thanks, Olga, for both these references. I will investigate the magazine and also Jonathan Raban's book, both of which are new to me.
      I can heartily recommend British Columbia and especially the wonderful Pacific coast, for it's stunning scenery as well as its art and culture. I'm hoping to return soon.

    2. And since British Columbia and the wonderful Pacific coast is just out my back door, why, I can heartily recommend it also!! Lovely examples of our First Nations art, Margaret. Thanks for posting!

    3. I have wonderful memories of a trip up the coast of BC in the August of 1971. My family came out to visit me and we took the coast road with all its ferries and then crossed over to Campbell River - stunning scenery helped hugely by amazing weather ... ah, memories!

  2. These patterns are very distinctive. Thanks for this post. Fascinating.

    1. Very glad you found it fascinating. I love the strength of the shapes and the balance of the designs - I'd forgotten how much till I refound the book. The designs translate beautifully into 3D which I didn't mention in the post - more to explore! I really love the totems and also the silver jewellery - wonderful but expensive ...


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