Ray Mears Northern Wilderness and cedar crafts

We don’t have a TV but occasionally folk tell me about things that are worth watching on BBCiplayer so this week I watched the last episode of Ray Mears Northern Wilderness series. I chose that episode partly because I had heard it was the best and partly because if covered the North West coast of Canada and area where there is a tradition of incredibly skilled wood craft work.

Here is the iplayer link

I thought I would share some pictures of North West coast crafts, first this wonderful picture was sent to me by Simon one of my blog readers who edits the Haida people’s newsletter. The Canoe was carved this year from a cedar tree. The raven mask and hats are also made from cedar.

Most folk in the UK that know about North West Coast crafts do so through one of two sources Gregg Blomberg makes kestrel tools, traditional carving knives. He also put together wonderful newsletters with inspiring pictures of traditional carvings. After years coveting his tools I finally ordered some this week.

The other source of information is a wonderful book called Cedar: Tree of Life of the Northwest Coast Indians by Hilary Stewart. This excellent book full of lovely line drawings shows some of the range of incredible woodwork that the various cultures of the North West Coast produced. A friend of mine Kieth Mathews was inspired by this several years ago to experiment with making vessels from the bark of western red cedar which is now commonly planted in the UK as a forestry tree. One of the things he made was a canoe bailer similar to the one Ray Mears made in the Northern Wilderness program only Kieth’s are better. ;0)

First Keith peels the bark from a freshly felled tree then strips the outer bark from the ends.

 Then he gathers the ends up and folds them up like a concertina.

He fits a hazel handle.

The takes a strong strip of the inner bark of cedar or lime to use as a binding strap around the ends.

 And when bound and finished it looks like this. Notice the little wooden pins inserted into the thickness of the bark along the edge, these stop the bark from curling in as it dries.

Keith made lots of different traditional forms including stitching bark together to form vessels like this quiver.

I have used the canoe bailer in the picture for about 5 years as a tool carrier, I keep my carving knives in it and it gives me great pleasure. If any of my blog readers have more information or pictures of North West Coast crafts I would love to see them. When my new Kestrel knives arrive I will be carving some traditional canoe shaped bowls.

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