The Art of Haida Argillite Carving: Celebrating Gary Minaker-Russ


For centuries, Haida artists have transformed argillite into stunning works of art. Among these artisans, Gary Minaker-Russ stands out, crafting pieces like this  bear mother story argillite panel pipe. This recent creation, complete with a deer bone mouthpiece, measures 11 inches in length, 4.3 inches in height, and 2 inches in width. Notably, Minaker-Russ’s work is known for its clean and sharp form lines, continuing the legacy of argillite carving, a craft deeply rooted in Haida culture.

Historical Context of Haida Argillite Carving

For approximately 200 years, the Haida people have mastered the art of argillite carving. Over generations, artisans in the villages of Masset and Skidegate have passed down this tradition, producing intricate and detailed sculptures. They source argillite, a slate rock, from Slatechuck Mountain near Skidegate on Haida Gwaii. Consequently, its unique properties make it ideal for detailed carvings.

Tools and Techniques

Haida artists use a variety of tools to shape and carve argillite. Initially, they start with coarser tools and gradually move to finer ones to achieve the desired shape. Then, they polish the piece with fine abrasives to remove tool marks. Recently, artists have enhanced their carvings with inlay materials such as ivory, bone, abalone shell, paua shell, and catlinite. Thus, this combination of traditional and modern techniques has produced extraordinary pieces over the past 50 years.

Gary Minaker-Russ and His Contributions

Gary Minaker-Russ excels in argillite carving, creating works distinguished by their precision and sharp form lines. For instance, his bear mother story argillite panel pipe exemplifies his skill, seamlessly integrating traditional Haida motifs with modern craftsmanship. Though this bear mother story panel pipe has been sold, it showcases the high quality and artistic value of his creations.


In conclusion, Haida argillite carving remains a revered tradition, rich in history and cultural significance. Artists like Gary Minaker-Russ continue to uphold and evolve this art form, creating pieces that are both beautiful and meaningful. Therefore, through their work, the legacy of Haida argillite carving endures, ensuring that this unique cultural expression thrives for future generations.

argillite panel pipe

Gary Minaker-Russ    Haida  

Panel pipe – bear mother story

Argillite & bone – 11 x 4.3 x 2 inches