Rattle depicting Eagle by Alex McCarty, Makah Nation. Hand carved red cedar, cedar bark, pigment, copper metal balls in the interior of the beak for the rattle sound. This piece measures 16" high x 13" long x 5.5" wide (including base)
Makah Carver Alex McCarty, is a young caver with great respect for older carving traditions. His interest in Makah carving traditions and culture was triggered in high school, when he was asked to work on a model of the Ozette Village for the Makah Museum. Working on the project over a nine-month period, Alex had a chance to look deeply into the past. Part of his preparation for making the model was to visit the landforms at the site, and to become familiar with the collection of artifacts housed at the museum. It was Alex's job to understand everything he could about everyday life at the village, and this helped to create his passion for history.
Through carving, Alex seeks to preserve cultural traditions that he can trace back through time. By observing the pieces from Ozette, as well as other classic West Coast carvings, he discerns "prevalent form-lines," which characterize the Makah tradition. He works hard at understanding the essence of his heritage, and sees his own work as a preservation and interpretation of this older style. Alex is driven to understand the past in his quest to develop his carving. He observes that "you need to get something before you can preserve it."
In his work, Alex strives to incorporate deep in-grain cuts and flowing, bold-line designs that he feels are so characteristic of classic West Coast carving. It is important to him that his carving is done well, and that his designs work from different perspectives. As a teacher, he makes the analogy that we need "to see things through multiple perspectives-the way that other people see things," to gain a deeper understanding of the world.
While Alex's work is in demand, often commissioned by galleries or individual collectors, he sees carving as providing more in his life than just income. As a teacher, he is quick to point out that the activity of carving in a group can be an exchange of learning, "a social thing...a sharing thing." He values teaching and learning from other carvers, and advises people to seek out learning opportunities such as the one he had at Ozette, which he sees as an under-utilized resource. Perhaps his approach to his carving tradition can be summarized in this way: "learn it with care, preserve it with beauty, and pass it on."