Tla-o-qui-aht master canoe carver Joe Martin showed this group how to make a Nuu-chah-nulth bentwood box last year. His full-day workshop takes place Sept. 8 this year. (Carving on the Edge Photo)

Tla-o-qui-aht master canoe carver Joe Martin showed this group how to make a Nuu-chah-nulth bentwood box last year. His full-day workshop takes place Sept. 8 this year. (Carving on the Edge Photo)

Annual Carving on the Edge Festival en route to Tofino

Opening night celebration is on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m.

The West Coast’s summertime celebrations aren’t chopped off at August’s end.

A unique local festival will keep the good times rolling into September as Carving on the Edge makes its eighth annual appearance.

Events will run from Sept. 7-10 this year and will help “inspire the growth of the traditional and contemporary West Coast carving arts through celebration, education and relationship building,” according to festival coordinator Norma Dryden.

Dryden touted Carving on the Edge as “the only annual festival in BC that celebrates traditional and contemporary carving arts,” and said she’s excited to see participating master carvers lead a creative and inspiring variety of workshops, exhibitions, talks, guided tours, and performances.

“It’s a wonderful cultural bridging opportunity to learn about our First Nations communities and the tremendous art traditions and to be in the presence of beautiful art,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to explore history and the tradition of this area that goes back thousands of years. That’s appealing to people who travel into an area, especially a place as beautiful as this one, to get a sense of this dynamic place that we have here.”

She said the West Coast is known world-wide for its carving traditions and the festival helps shed light on, and celebrate, those traditions and their linkage to local forests.

READ: Musings from a Master carver

“Every year it’s a different theme and a different collection of culture-makers and culture keepers,” she said. “This year, the theme is around exploring the trade routes and the relationship that carvings has had in trade up and down the coast and with the rest of the world.”

She added the festival also provides an opportunity for carvers to inspire each other.

“The carvers also grow each year. Carving is traditionally a solitary art form and the carvers come together and a number of collaborations have taken place over the years,” she said. “It brings a whole new group of contemporary carvers to come and carve based on a lot of those styles and teachings as well as inspiring residents to continue carving those stories and histories and their interpretations of them.”

The idea behind the festival was crafted by a group of Nuu-chah-nulth carvers and elders who met in Tofino’s Tin Wis carving shed in 2010 to talk about the traditions and cultural teachings of West Coast carving, according to the festival’s website.

“They gathered ideas on how to share and teach their skills with others —carvers, communities, and youth —with the purpose of growing the carving community while sharing traditional teachings and stories,” it reads. “The group made a commitment to develop an annual Carving on the Edge festival and called themselves ‘Keepers of the Festival.’”

Dryden said the festival has since blossomed into a goldmine of inspiration and education.

The festival’s events will all take place at The Shore building in Tofino, including an opening night celebration on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m., featuring a live art printing demonstration where spectators can witness carved woodblocks being printed and unveiled. Local elder and beach-keeper Barney Williams will lead a Tla-o-qui-aht Welcome and Melody Charlie will unveil a new photography installation.

“It’s always a quite extraordinary show, given that we’re a small community,” Dryden said.

Events can be found at