Featured Original Kiana of Alaska Totems

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by hubcapwalrus, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    62258299_2308713409343122_3861648930269822976_o.jpg

    I've seen a few posts on this board about Kiana of Alaska foam/resin replica totem poles from the 1960s. I wanted to share a really cool pair of totem poles I have that are two of the original wood carvings used to make the copies. The poles without bases in the pic are the original totem poles carved out of yellow cedar by Nisga'a artist Wilf Stevenson. They still have some bits of casting material in their nooks and crannies from when they were copied. The backs and bottoms of the poles also feature holes from the brackets used in the process. Note that the castings in the centre have the same base, right down to the wood knots (and resin-cast screw on the bottom). The surface of the poles feels slick and smooth from the process.

    I picked these up in Anchorage, Alaska, about ten years ago from a dealer that received several boxes of Kiana material and ephemera from the grandson of the founder. As bad a rap as the castings get (I think unduly), the original poles are actually quite nice. Thanks for looking!
     
  2. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Is What It IS! But NEVER BORED!

    Hi and WELCOME to ANTIQUERS, @hubcapwalrus!!! Since I know absolutely ZIP about totems, I can't really comment on them, but wanted to welcome you here! Am sure others will be along!!:):)
     
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  3. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    very neat that you have the originals !!!
    the bad rap is mostly that folks try and sell the foam ones as wood originals.....cuz like..." look , they have the screw.." so they must be real...:mad:

    I got upset with a seller once from Washington State...and just had to ask him....
    What, have you never had a real piece of wood in your hand ???????
     
  4. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    Thanks, Aquitaine!
     
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  5. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    Thanks, Komokwa. It's pretty cool to know who the artist was and get a peek into the casting process.

    I do agree about the poles being misrepresented, but I imagine most people (buyers and sellers) figure out these Kiana poles are copies pretty quickly (it does boggle the mind that the light foam used for these poles could be mistaken for wood). I usually find the sellers that are presenting these as real carvings to just be inexperienced or mistaken. On the other hand, Indonesian and other non-Native objects are a much more insidious problem.
     
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  6. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    Indeed......but over time I've seen too many of these sold as real wood hand carved.....even when the base was scuffed to reveal the foams bubbles..
     
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  7. judy

    judy Well-Known Member

    Hi Hubcapwalrus!

    Welcome to Antiquers..........
     
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  8. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    I agree. And thanks for showing us, they are wonderful.
    Do you know if the artist made them specifically for Kiana? I certainly hope so.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
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  9. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    i believe that's the case...
     
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  10. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    I just noticed I am now not only switching letters, but also words. I just changed my last post. If you could see what my posts look like without extensive editing.:rolleyes:
    Glad you understood what I meant anyway, @komokwa .:happy:
     
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  11. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    not to worry girlfriend !! :happy::happy::happy:
    I don't edit everything....and leave some loose words around....
    I understood you...that's what counts..;)
     
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  12. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    :kiss:
     
  13. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    Thank you!

    Unfortunately, it's not actually clear if these were made specifically for Kiana. Several other objects that were used for castings were purchased from the 'Ksan School in nearby Hazelton, and even some older carvings (ca. 1950s) that were by a non-Native hobbyist from Seattle. So, I'm not sure. I will say that Wilf Stevenson's work defined the "look" of the Kiana line and his carvings were very consistent in style.
     
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  14. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    are there screw holes on the bottom of the originals ?
    many K'san model poles were made without bases...
     
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  15. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    Thanks!
     
  16. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    There are, I think that the manufacturer screwed the same base onto the bottom of every pole and cast them that way. The knothole matches on all the bases. A lot of the small panels and plaques that Kiana made were also from 'Ksan, and included some big, early names from that school.
     
    komokwa likes this.
  17. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    Is it possible the wood ones aren't mold-originals, but were made to test skill in reproducing the plastic ones in wood as closely as possible, rather than being molds? I see some differences between the two that make it seem like the molds are not exact copies of the wood ones.

    Not saying that is the case, and maybe they made minor changes in the mold once they were made (and clearly I don't have them in hand, only the pics which may be lying to me). Just wondering if you considered the possibility.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
  18. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    as a rule, any NWC artist worth his or her salt....will not make the same image or design, twice.
     
    Jeff Drum likes this.
  19. Jeff Drum

    Jeff Drum Well-Known Member

    I'm sure you're right. That's the problem with trying to read too much into a single picture taken from a distance - the differences I'm seeing are probably just artifacts of shading and coloring.
     
    komokwa likes this.
  20. hubcapwalrus

    hubcapwalrus Active Member

    Hi Jeff, I see what you mean in the photo, but the totems are absolutely identical in hand (with the minor exception of size - the foam totems shrank in cooling). There's also tiny design numbers that are engraved into all the totems in obscure places that match. As for other minor differences, it's just not a great photo (to show the mottling on the frog, for instance). Good eye!
     
    Figtree3 likes this.
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