Round Bentwood Box depicting Bear and Beaver by Henry Van Calcar, Washington State
Bentwood Box in the Round depicting Bear and Beaver, c. 2000 by Henry Van Calcar, Washington State bentwood yellow cedar, red cedar lid and base, operculum shell inlay 11.5” high x 9.5” wide x 9.5” deep
“I have been fascinated by the Northwest Coast art for as long as I can remember. At Blake Island, while watching an artist carve a mask, I asked him where he got his knives as I thought I might like to try carving. He said he made his own. I asked him if he could make me a set which he did, and now I was ready to give it a try. It wasn’t until about 7 years later when I retired as an engineer, that I took up those knives and carved my first piece, I was hooked. I did several other pieces and even tried making a small bentwood box that was a total disaster as it broke in the steaming and bending process.
I soon recognized that there was a whole lot more to the art of making a bentwood box and I needed help. I signed up for a bent wood box making class at Kestrel Tool. That was a great jump start. Because I am not indigenous, I did not want to carve traditional First Nations objects. I was fascinated with bentwood, and I thought it would be a great challenge to create a bentwood box in the round, rather than in the traditional shapes.
Since my retirement, my wife and I spend four months each summer cruising the B.C. and southeast Alaska waters on our boat. During these cruises, I usually carve several hours each day. We have had the opportunity to visit with many of the First Nation carvers up the coast, who have encouraged me to continue exploring ways to incorporate my love of traditional Northwest Coast carving into works unique to my experience as a wood worker. - Henry Van Calcar