The inspiration for these modern “amulets” has come from a number of Northwest Coast artifacts in museum collections and books. Although some are based fairly directly on actual amulets, many are inspired by much larger artifacts, ranging up to a 15’ high house screen. Because of the small scale of my carvings, many of these designs are modified or simplified from the originals while remaining faithful to the formal conventions of Northwest Coast carving traditions.

My originals are carved with a variety of small knives, some of which I have made by cold forging sewing needles; I now use a dissecting microscope to carve much of the fine detail. My raw materials include catlinite (pipestone), argillite, fossil ivory, antler, bone, wood, and tagua nut. When each carving is finished, I make a series of molds and hand cast pieces to be made into the finished jewelry. The casting material is an acrylic polymer similar to lucite. Originally developed as a synthetic ivory used for dental bridgework, this material will reproduce exquisite detail, polishes well, and gives me a range of colors consistent with traditional Northwest Coast art. Other advantages are less weight and brittleness than either glass or ceramics. The main advantage of casting multiple small pieces is of course that I am able to sell extremely detailed and highly finished artwork at prices closer to mass produced “tourist” art while maintaining “gallery” quality design and craftsmanship.


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Some raw materials

Bone, antler, ivory, fossil ivory, tagua nut, pipestone


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Carving tools

Files for pipestone, crooked knives for hollowing out bowls, “needle” knives for detail; the aluminum knife with extra blades stored inside the handle I have had since 1962


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Small knives made from needles

The penny for scale, the “big” blade is quite adequate for most detail unless I am using my binocular microscope


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Box carving

The pattern scratched into the right side, the left side completed


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Box carving 2

The completed side ready for mold making


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Ready to make mold-cranes

The finished carvings attached to the base and “walled” in, ready for the mold rubber to be poured.


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Vacuum chamber

De-airing the mold rubber in preparation for pouring molds


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Making molds

Pouring the mold rubber


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Mold

A mold ready for casting


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Molds ready for casting

Because the casting resin cures rapidly one needs to have lots of molds ready


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A mold and its casting

Once I have cast a few thousand pieces like this I “only” have to grind off the backs, scrape them smooth, and sand front and back with about ten increasingly finer grits (first dry and then wet sanding) to get them ready for painting the low areas. On average this all takes less than an hour per piece. Then they are ready to make into the finished product.