ERIC SCHWEIG TALKS CARVING
Sixteen to eighteen hours for 3 days, but if I take my time, like a normal mortal would do, a week.
I've been playing with wood since I was old enough to pick up a knife, but about a year and a half. It took my buddy, Vern, four years to talk me into it and finally I buckled under the pressure. More or less, he said, "Well, if you're not doing the movies, do masks!" About a year and a half.
About ten years. He's a good guy. He's my bro'.
Vern's from Telegraph Creek in northern BC ... he's a Tahltan Indian.
Nope, it's just right there, screaming at you. That's about as symbolic as you can get. There's no real rhyme or reason for the color or the feathers. I just try whatever works, whatever appeals to me, whatever looks ... powerful on it. I'll try it. If it's ostrich plumage, or eagle feathers, or turkey feathers ... whatever looks good, I'll put it on.
I don't know. I just switched them. [laughs]
I like ... well, it depends on the person. I like white and black & red. Those are my favorite colors. No, not really. I take orders for masks and get people to ... I started this idea of... You know those color charts you get in paint stores? Just to send those. If they want a certain color in a mask, just go get a little color coded thing and check it off, put it in the mail, I'll sit there with the paint and match it. It's a good idea.
It's indigenous to BC ... to British Columbia. It's red cedar and yellow cedar. Red cedar is kind of soft. It's a little harder to work with. Yellow cedar is more homogenous, more like butter. You can carve it easier sideways, against the grain, than red cedar. But, we use that all the time. Or, they use alder up there. That's about it.
Usually, I have something in mind before I start carving. I just rough it out with a chain saw, then go at it with a adz. Then ... the blades ... the method gets ... is kind of ... Neanderthal at first. You got to bash the hell out of it! "Rrrr ... rrrr ... rrrr ... rrrr!" Then you got to beat on it with an adz! Then, slowly, as it gets down to the crunch, you're using smaller and smaller knives ... and stuff like that. But yeah, usually you have an idea of what you're going to do.
Oh yeah ... I do! [laughs]
Yeah, it happens once in a while. There's some guys who are really superstitious about it and, you know, they don't want to have band aids in the house, because it's a curse. It's bad luck to have band aids in the house. But then they complain when they slash their ... when they stab themselves in the leg and there's blood all over, "Where's the band aids?!?" [laughs]
On the wood you do ... really rough with a soft ...
No, not really. You trace it on. Depending on what ... the west coast stuff has a lot of ... it's really symmetrical so, they'll do one side. They'll design one side, then use tracing paper and then flip it over to the other side of the head so that everything's even. And, as far as color, you just play around with it until you get what you want.
Uhmmm ... not really, no. I get such a charge out of it that it doesn't seem hard. Nothing does. Like no matter what it is. I get such a kick out of making it ... just the whole process. Whatever. I like the whole process. I like the idea of just getting up and sitting there with good company - which is my buddy Vern - and just laughing all day, just the whole thing. Right from the start, the smell of it, the smell of the wood, the way it feels ... the way, you know, when you shape it and you do different things with it. I like the whole thing, from start to finish.
It's all one piece ... except for the hoop in the back. I have to go out and ... You know, I find it an interesting paradox that I go to a park in the city ... While HUGE lumber companies like McMillan & Bloedel are kicking Indian people off their land and slashing down huge old growth trees that are two hundred years old, but people will look at me funny if I go to their parks in the city and take a little saw to cut out a little hoop about that big [indicates approximate size of the hoop appendage], and they're staring at me. "What are you looking at?" It doesn't make any sense.