Volunteers needed to paint bentwood boxes

  • Jul. 21, 2003 7:00 p.m.

If you want to help create a piece of genuine Haida art, then head to the canoe shed at Second Beach in Skidegate, where Andy Wilson will show you how to paint a bentwood box.
A hundred bentwood boxes must be made before October to hold the remains of repatriated ancestors, and the job is only half done.
“We will be looking for volunteers to come down and paint when the rest of the boxes are created because time is getting short to meet the October deadline,” Mr. Wilson said.
Repatriation committees from Old Massett and Skidegate will travel to Chicago’s Field Museum in October to recover Haida ancestral remains taken from the islands years ago.
“Because we don’t know where the remains come from, we’re trying to represent all the family crests on the islands,” Mr. Wilson explained. The designs are taken from photos of bentwood boxes in museums around the world. Over the last five years, as ancestral remains are repatriated and buried, all the Haida families of the islands have been represented.
Mr. Wilson prepared the boxes this spring. Now summer students and volunteers are painting them. The painter begins by tracing the family crest onto the cedar. Then the design is filled in with black and red paint. The process takes from two to five days per box, depending on the complexity of the design.
“As the kids get better at it, we will let them create their own designs,” he said.
Three high school students – Paul Hans, Ryan Williams and Morgan Pollard – from Skidegate will work on the boxes this summer, with possibly more joining later. Analia Davila of Mexico, Alison Young of Victoria and Lou Poirier of New Brunswick are volunteering to help out. For the students and volunteers, painting boxes is a way to learn more about Haida art and culture and to spend time doing something they enjoy.
“I feel honoured,” Ms Poirier said. “These will hold the remains of people who lived long ago. It’s spiritual, and it’s also relaxing – a moment between me and the wood where someone will rest.”
People who want to help paint the boxes can call Andy Wilson at 559-8670, or drop by the canoe shed between Monday and Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Anyone who wants to help, but feels paint brush challenged, can help by buying tickets for the repatriation sea food suppers scheduled thoughout the summer.