Over the last few months, Jerome Boyce has shared his knowledge of traditional and contemporary carving with students at Eliza Archie Memorial School.
Boyce, recently in the Free Press for crafting Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s new entranceway, is a Canim Lake carpenter who owns Ctsekwtiken Construction. He is also a traditional artisan carver who loves working with wood and sharing his skills with his community.
“It’s fun working with the students. They remind me of me when I was young. I wish I’d had a mentor like that, someone to show me stuff,” Boyce said.
In February this year, Boyce was invited by principal Thomas Wilkinson to share his knowledge with six Grade 8 to 12 students once a week. Wilkinson said they wanted him to teach traditional cultural art and the fine skills and details of wood carving. After “humming and hawing” a bit, Boyce, who also does six-week workshops for adults, agreed to mentor the students.
Just like Boyce when he was learning, his pupils started without any tools. He told them about how he used to pick apart his uncle’s utility knife as a boy and take the blades out and carve little handles for them. Thankfully, Boyce and the school provided them with some knives and chisels to work with, as making their own knives would be an entirely separate workshop.
Each student was given a simple small block of wood to carve. Boyce said he figured a small size would be best for teaching the patience a person needs. After tracing their designs onto the wood, Boyce taught them how to carve it out of the wood, using it to create an image with depth and texture.
The students created traditional native art-inspired pieces depicting bears, eagles, wolves and even a hummingbird, Wilkinson said.
Grade 10 student Lexus Amut, who has been at Eliza Archie since she was five, said it was a relief to learn wood carving as COVID-19 has limited the electives she and her classmates could take.
Amut, who carved an eagle, said she was pleased with how it turned out. It took her about three months to bring her eagle to life as she carefully carved out its profile and plumage. It was cool, she added, to see how the details popped after Boyce sanded the edges for her.
“It was pretty fun. I don’t think we ever did carving before,” Amut said. “Trying to find the art in the wood (was challenging). It was fun trying to see what it would look like even if it was only halfway done.”
Wilkinson said the workshop was very well received among his students and credited Boyce’s talent and dedication.
“They started from scratch, learned how to sharpen their tools and then the basic skills of wood carving,” Wilkinson said. “It’s great, I’m looking forward to having him continue in this role next year and perhaps extend it to totem pole carving.”
Amut added she wouldn’t mind carving again, noting that while she doesn’t yet know how to make a totem pole, she figures she could now block of wood and produce a carving once every two months.
Boyce said he was impressed by the students, noting many of them “didn’t know how to handle a knife outside of buttering their bread” when they started.
“They were good students. I enjoyed it and hopefully, something like this keeps going in the future for the students,” Boyce said. “If they ask me, I’ll probably take it on again.”