Haida Argillite Carvings

For approximately 200 years, Haida artists have been creating Hiada argillite carvings. Many of the older craftsmen whose activities and careers were well known have passed down their knowledge to their contemporaries in the villages of Masset and Skidegate. Some of the very best artists produce Haida argillite carvings with the finest detail. Argillite is a slate rock found on Slatechuck Mountain near the village of Skidegate on Haida-Gwaii.  The Haida people maintain sole custody over the deposit used as the source for making Haida argillite carvings.

Argillite is pried from a damp mossy hillside and it soft enough to be cut with a handsaw. Once the rock is cut into large pieces, it is backpacked down a slippery mountain. Argillite is soft and wet when quarried and tends to split into slabs if it dries too rapidly. For this reason, carvers often paint their argillite with shellac or a similar type of material. This greatly assists in keeping the argillite relatively moist and soft for later use in the creation of carvings. Argillite which has dried out is hardened. It is not only difficult to carve but is also much more likely to flake and chip.

Argillite is shaped and carved with a wide range of tools. Many of the tools are hand-made. Argillite is carefully shaped with finer and finer cutting tools. Fine abrasive materials are often used to polish out tool marks. In more recent times, some artists have added inlay materials such as ivory, bone, abalone shell, paua shell, catlinite, and other materials to enhance the overall appearance of a carving.

The sculptures carved today reflect the ancient traditions and myths of Haida culture. Intricate figures unique in their symbolic representation are the focus of our selection of Haida argillite carvings offered for sale. Some of the more contemporary outstanding Haida argillite carvers include Christian White, Darrell White, Don Yeomens, Robert Davidson, Alfred Collinson, Lionel Samuels, Gary Minaker-Russ, Ron Russ, Ed Russ. Nelson Cross, and Fred Davis.

Discover the exquisite artistry of Haida argillite carvings on our website.  There are a number of sculptures with intricate craftsmanship that exhibit cultural significance.

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