We ended up in Massett, a small town in the Charlottes where Haida Indians live. We were walking around the town in the drippy weather and saw a long, barn-shaped building that looked like there was something going on. Smoke was coming out of the smokestack.
The door was open so we looked inside. There was a fifty-foot long red ceder log up on stanchions being carved into a totem pole. We could not resist that! We walked in.
We noticed there was a wooden carved hat sitting on the end of the totem pole that was completely finished. A huge green frog sat on the top of the hat, all carved out of the same piece of wood and painted green.
Two native guys were standing there with their tools -- their adzes and all of their things. We walked over and started talking to one of them, Wayne Edenshaw. I asked him about the hat. He said he'd made it and allowed me to
put it on my head.
As I was trying on the hat, I looked around the studio and I noticed a figure that looked like a Hawaiian ki'i, an image of the god Ku, hanging up above the entry door. It surprised me to see it so far away from home and I had to ask Wayne where he got it.
He said, "Oh, I got it from the Hawaiian people as a thank-you for cutting a giant cedar for one of their sea-going canoes. I cut the tree and got it shipped to Hawaii. They sent back this statue of the god Ku."
Then he continued, "Actually, according to what I understand, the Haida people did not come across the land bridge. We came by sea-going voyaging canoes." As far as he was concerned, the Haida people were in the same lineage as the Polynesians and the last stop of the Hawaiian explorations was not in the Hawaiian islands but in British Columbia where they settled off-shore, as they always did, on islands, and had lived there ever since.
He said, "I'll show you the secret!"
He walked over to the drawing board. Hanging off the side of the board was a string. On the end of the string was dangling a huge eraser. With a big grin, he said, "You just keep doing it until the line is right."
I had to laugh, but, you know, I've come to consider that piece of wisdom to be one of the major teachings I have received in my art career: The secret to great art is a big eraser.....