George Bennett's Carving

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When I was a young man in Hoonah, I used to watch Bill Wilson, Sr. do his silver work.  I wish that back then I could have got curious enough to try and learn.  There was Lonnie Houston who made bentwood boxes- again I missed the boat- and my uncles Amos Wallace, Lincoln Wallace who did great art, and the Marks family, and David Williams was an awesome carver.

Thinking about this later in life, I knew there was something missing from our way of life, yet to learn.  When I moved to Sitka in 1998, the first place I went to was the Southeast Culture Center, at the National Park.  I met Tom Joseph, Will Burkhart, and Wayne Price.  I watched them carve a large canoe, and I saw Tom make bentwood boxes.  That was what I wanted to do, so I took some classes from him.  Later I took classes with Wayne Price, making paddles, then I took formline classes from Will Burkhart.  All these guys are great artist in their own right.  

I met an elderly Tlingit man, he was doing silver carving, while I was work as a Ranger Interpreter at the Park.  I would stop and visit him, when he found out that I spoke Tlingit, we really hit it off, he kept telling me to learn how to do formline, and he would teach me silver carving at his place.  As I kept putting it off, one day he passed away, and I felt bad that I could have learned from him.  Later I ran into a childhood friend of mine, he used to live in Juneau, and he did a lot of good art work.  He carved small totem poles, and also silver work, so I took a class from him in silver work.  Jimmie Marks also had a lot to do with me getting interested in carving totem poles.  But I fell in love with bentwood boxes. 

I saw so much in them, the balance in the design work, and what they were used for, they were not a form of art, but something that our ancestors used.

In 2008, I did a two week research at the Burke Museum at University of Washington, and I studied the boxes, and looked at all the Tlingit artifacts they had.  Several months later, I went to Washington DC, to the Smithsonian, and did the same there.

Today I make boxes, paddles, small totem poles.  I enjoy the boxes, it feels like they are coming to life in my hands.  One thing that I always do, is insure that my mind is clear of negative things, I will not touch a box if I am not in a good state of mind.  Respect to my elders.