New book captures young carvers’ creativity

Awakening Spirits: Echoes of Ancient Yukon Traditions is not just your typical coffee-table book. Released last month, it documents the stories of Yukon First Nation youth who were practically saved by a local carving program.

Awakening Spirits: Echoes of Ancient Yukon Traditions is not just your typical coffee-table book. Released last month, it documents the stories of Yukon First Nation youth who were practically saved by a local carving program.

“I was a skater punk, I wasn’t going nowhere – then. Until I tried carving,” said Jared Kane, 25, one of the 19 artists featured in the book.

The book compiles the carvers’ biographies and pictures of their artwork, including masks, panels, bentwood boxes, and paddles. It also describes the process of carving out a canoe they built together in a 2009 project called Dugout. The last part of the book features the healing aspects of carving a totem by the banks of the Yukon River at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in 2012.

The carving program, initially launched in 2004 by the owners of the Sundog Retreat Centre, Andrew and Heather Finton, is now run by the Northern Cultural Expressions Society.

Having volunteered at an orphanage in Brazil in their 20s, the two are familiar with youth programs. The couple saw the carving program as a way of “filling the gap” for youth treatment programs for First Nations youth.

They did not want to just address “the psycho-social challenges, but really look at the person who walks into the door as a person who has skills to offer,” said Heather Finton.

In October of last year, she decided to seek funding to celebrate and document the successes of the program, said Finton.

Kane joined the program in 2006, when he was “pissed off” of being a few classes short of graduating from high school. The community education liaison co-ordinator for the Ta’an Kwach’an Council recommended he join the program.

He sketched a carving design within 15 minutes before meeting Andrew Finton, who ran the program at the time. Finton couldn’t believe he drew the piece so quickly, Kane said.

The cover of the book is a mask Kane carved, entitled “Shark Man.” With its stark, green marbled abalone shell eyes, pony-tailed horsehair and its fierce facial expression, the book gives a bold first impression of its pages.

“Jared’s work features clean, striking lines and a contemporary use of traditional themes,” the book says of Kane.

All the artists were between the ages of 18 and 30 when they got involved with the carving program, said the former president of the group, Diane Villeseche.

Villeseche, a graphic designer and owner of Raven Ink, has been involved with the group for six years, initially as a parent. She has seen how the program changed her own daughter, Sarah Villeseche, who was bullied throughout high school.

Sarah Villeseche is one of the artists featured in the book and is still involved as an “advanced carver,” with the group, according to the Northern Cultural Expressions Society’s website.

“They all lack in self-esteem and they all sell themselves short in what their capabilities are,” said Diane Villeseche.

Learning to carve changes that. “First, trusting them with a knife – that is sort of the beginning,” she said. She likens the chipping of the wood to the transformation of the youth when they see their art pieces being admired and bought.

That’s how the program transformed Kane’s life. “It helped me develop as an artist and as a person,” he said.

Kane pursued a career as a carver by furthering his studies. He recently graduated from the First Nations fine arts program at Northwest Community College in Terrace, B.C.

Three out of five of his major school projects have already been sold at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver. One of his masks, called Tlingit Moon, sold for $2,500.

Kane is also still involved with the group and carves everyday at the Northern Cultural Expressions Society’s studio, located near the Yukon Inn.

Learning from elders and carvers from the program, he gives back to the community by teaching a carving course to 10-to-12-year-olds at Elijah Smith Elementary School.

He owes his success as an artist to his carving mentors. “They’ve made me who I am today,” he said.

“To be honest, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I’d probably not be in a good place,” he said.

Awakening Spirit: Echoes of Ancient Yukon Traditions may be purchased at Mac’s Fireweed Store on Main Street or the Northern Cultural Expressions Society studio on 4194A Fourth Ave.

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read