” which tells the story of how fire came into being for mankind

” which tells the story of how fire came into being for mankind

Towering art: ‘Raven’s Gift’ newest totem pole in Blyn [ *** GALLERY and VIDEO*** ]

BLYN — Dale Faulstich has created more than 30 totem poles for Jamestown S’Klallam tribe facilities over nearly 20 years.

Now he has installed a new one — a two-sided, 21-foot-tall pole fronting the Clallam County Fire District No. 3 fire station in Blyn, just east of Sequim.

It tells the story of Raven bringing fire to mankind.

“I always try to match the story and make it appropriate with what the project is,” Faulstich said inside the spacious carving shed known as the “House of Myths,” which is adjacent to the tribal center on Old Blyn Highway west of U.S. Highway 101.

“Raven’s Gift” depicts a “contemporary folk tale,” Faulstich said.

The story, which Faulstich, a non-native, wrote after he researched it, opens with Raven, who “traveled the world causing problems (and solving some).

“He is responsible for putting the sun, moon and stars in the sky, placing all the lakes and streams on the Earth, then filling them with salmon,” Faulstich said.

“Another of his adventures brought the gift of fire to the world.”

To tell the story, the totem pole has a side depicting the raven at bottom, the coyote in the middle and the wren at top.

The other side of the pole features depictions of a blue jay at the bottom, a beaver in the middle and a robin at the top.

Interviewed elders

To craft the “Raven’s Gift” totem pole, Faulstich interviewed Jamestown S’Klallam tribal elders.

“One elder will remember one story, and another one would remember another,” the artist said.

“I put it all together and wrote this story.”

Coming up with the fable of “Raven’s Gift” was more difficult than the actual carving, according to Faulstich.

“Carving is play,” he said with a smile.

Faulstich calls totem carving “a team sport,” adding that he has created totems since before 7 Cedars Casino was built in 1994, and the first of the seven totem poles fronting the casino were built as the first of the so-called seven cedars.

More work ahead

He sees more S’Klallam work ahead, including welcome figures for the tribal center and possibly one for the “House of Myths” carving shed.

Faulstich said he and his crew have carved at least 50 poles there.

He has worked in the carving shed since the tribe first contracted him when it built 7 Cedars Casino.

Asked why the shed is called the “House of Myths,” Faulstich said:

“Well, that’s what we do here: We make myths.”

Most of the poles carved in the shed have been for the tribe, while others have been for private clients.

“There’s probably 30 poles within half a mile from where we’re standing, in front of various tribal facilities,” Faulstich said inside the carving shed.

He has been working with the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe since the mid-1980s.

He started as a commercial artist.

“I had a commercial art business, and the tribe was one of my commercial accounts,” he said.

He was a carver before he crafted totems, shaping wooden doors into works of art and carvings of native creatures.

He carved a life-size eagle and salmon for the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles.

“I started doing the Native American artwork as a hobby, thinking that as a non-native, I would never be able to turn that hobby into a livelihood, so it would be a nice, safe hobby.

“Well, that theory backfired,” he quipped.

Meeting carving-shed visitor requests, he now casts smaller concrete totem poles made for gardens at a cost of $275 each, far less than the large wood totems that cost thousands of dollars.

The carving tool he makes use of 80 percent to 90 percent of the time is the adze, which he himself crafts from pieces of native yew, madrona, maple, alder and cascara tree branches with natural elbows.

Soft cedar logs

He repurposes sharp blades from other tools for the adzes he creates to chip away at the soft, pleasant-scented cedar logs.

“You won’t find these at Home Depot,” he joked, looking into the large toolbox that stores the specially crafted tools.

The tallest totem he has carved stands at 49 feet in front of 7 Cedars Casino, the sentinel of the seven totem poles fronting the casino.

A large cedar log for carving, 5 feet to 6 feet in diameter, can cost $20,000, he said, the price of the log that is today the totem pole fronting the Jamestown Family Health Clinic, 808 N. Fifth Ave. in Sequim.

It took a half-day to raise “Raven’s Gift” on a heavy-duty concrete pad engineered so the pole can withstand winds of 100 mph.

Six to eight coats of durable paint and sealer on totems are required to withstand the sometimes wicked weather that whips off Sequim Bay near Jimmycomelately Creek.

Tricky installation

The installation was tricky, Faulstich said, because the two sides of the totem had to be perfectly aligned back to back.

Dusty Humphries, a Jamestown S’Klallam tribe member from Port Angeles who has been working with Faulstich for seven months as an apprentice, said he looks forward to learning the specialty craft.

Humphries, who has worked on decorative panels and masks with Faulstich, said “Raven’s Gift” was his first installation.

“I’ve been around it since I was a little kid,” the 27-year-old said at the carving shed after helping Faulstich and his main carver, Bud Turner, raise and touch up “Raven’s Gift’s” paint.

The poles are topped with a copper plate and bird spikes to repel seagulls.

“We learned after the first dozen that birds leave their signs on the artwork,” he said.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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