The Legacy of Haida Argillite Sculptures

Christian White’s “First Men” Sculpture

Christian White, a master artist, carved an outstanding argillite sculpture titled “First Men.” This intricate piece, measuring 2.1 inches in height, 2.1 inches in width, and 1.8 inches in depth, depicts a raven releasing the first men from a clam shell. Additionally, the sculpture features exquisite inlays of abalone shell and ivory, showcasing White’s exceptional skill and attention to detail. Consequently, collectors highly seek White’s works, reflecting the rich tradition and ongoing evolution of Haida carving. Unsurprisingly, the “First Men” sculpture quickly sold, underscoring its desirability among collectors.

A Rich Tradition of Craftsmanship

For approximately 200 years, Haida artists have carved argillite sculptures. This tradition of craftsmanship has passed down through generations, particularly in the villages of Masset and Skidegate. As a result, these communities continue to produce some of the finest argillite carvings, with older craftsmen imparting their knowledge and techniques to contemporary artists.

The Unique Material: Argillite

Argillite is a unique slate rock found on Slatechuck Mountain near the village of Skidegate on Haida Gwaii. Haida artists favor this material for its workability and the beautiful, intricate carvings it yields. Typically, artists use a wide range of tools, many handmade, to shape and carve the argillite. The process involves using progressively finer cutting tools and fine abrasive materials to polish out tool marks, resulting in a smooth, refined finish.

Modern Enhancements and Inlays

In recent times, Haida artists have incorporated various inlay materials to enhance the visual appeal of their carvings. These materials include ivory, bone, abalone shell, paua shell, catlinite, and others. By adding these inlays, artists add depth and richness to the sculptures, making them even more captivating.

A Continuing Tradition

Over the past 50 years, Haida argillite carving has produced many wonderful sculptures. The meticulous craftsmanship and innovative techniques used by artists like Christian White ensure that this art form continues to thrive and evolve. For more information on the history and artistry of Haida argillite sculptures, explore resources like Argillite: Art of the Haida and Haida Argillite Carvings.

argillite first man carving

Christian White   Haida

‘First Man”

Argillite, abalone shell & ivory – 2.1 x 2.1 x 1.8 inches