Joe Martin smiles alongside his daughter

Musings from a master carver

“It’s quite a process. It’s not just going into the forest and picking a tree.”

  • Mon Nov 14th, 2016 4:00pm
  • Life

NORA O’MALLEY

nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

From his cedar smelling workshop up on Monks Point, master canoe carver Joe Martin leads the Westerly News into a conversation about trees.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation described how to fall old trees, how to move a big, heavy log and how to make the most out of windfalls.

“My grandfather and my dad told me time and time again that you’re not suppose to cut anything within 100-metres of an eagles nest or a bear den or a wolf den because we have been taught to be respectful. You’re suppose to respect all life,” he said.

“It’s quite a process. It’s not just going into the forest and picking a tree.”

Martin’s dad, Robert Martin Senior, taught him everything he knows about making a traditional dugout canoe.

“In the former days it was just stone, bone and fire. And time. People had time. We didn’t look at time the way we do today. You get paid this much an hour or you work between this time and that time,” said Martin.

He explained that in the old days, canoes would be singed black and polished with shavings.

He said they used their hands to measure length and a rock and string tool was used for levelling.

“I remember the first canoe I ever made, my dad was really proud. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, Now son you don’t have to depend on anyone for anything.”

Martin has since lost count on the number of canoes he’s made over the years. Mostly, he carves them for youngsters in his family as he views it as a responsibility to pass the knowledge on.

His daughter, Tsimka Martin, also uses his canoes to take visitors on guided tours of Clayoquot Sound.

It took him about four months to make that first canoe as a young apprentice, and now, with the help of a couple workers, the master carver said can produce a 36-foot canoe in about four weeks.

“It takes the time it takes,” Martin said with a grin.

And when asked what he loves most about his hand-carved canoes?

“Seeing them first hit the water.”

Joe Martin has been nominated by the Pacific Rim Arts Society for the 2016 Rainy Award, which will be presented at their Annual General Meeting on Nov. 6.

The Rainy Award was established to recognize a local accomplished artist who exhibits a strong commitment to community and shows a willingness to participate, to share, and to teach.