Carv­ing ‘from the soul’

Clyde Drew’s in­tri­cate work has de­vel­oped a world-wide fol­low­ing

The Western Star - - OBITUARIES/HOBBIES - DANETTE DOO­LEY [email protected]

Clyde Drew cred­its his Conne River roots for the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind many of his sought-af­ter carv­ings.

Cre­ated mainly from moose antler and wood, his pieces can be found in pri­vate col­lec­tions and are show­cased in gal­leries and ex­hi­bi­tions through­out the world.

Drew is a proud Mi’kmaq carver who moved from Conne River to St. Al­ban’s –also in Bay d’Espoir – at age 12.

He chose his first piece of wood in the early 1970s.

“I used a chain­saw and chisel back then,” he said of his first carv­ing tools.

A cou­ple of years later, Drew switched to antler carv­ings.

“Most of my art­work is Mi’kmaq-in­flu­enced. And I started get­ting into wildlife a cou­ple of years back,” he said.

Ea­gles, moose, wolves, fish, fish­er­men and other peo­ple have made their way into Drew’s carv­ings.

While he some­times draws images be­fore he starts, most of the time Drew said, he “carves from the soul.”

“I take the wood or antler into my hands and I size it up un­til I see some­thing. If it’s an abo­rig­i­nal, I start by carv­ing the nose on its face. Once I do the face first, I’ll re­volve ev­ery­thing around that... it could be ea­gles or bears but that all comes af­ter­wards,” the 66-year-old said.

Asked if he has a favourite carv­ing, Drew said one he found hard to sell was of an Indige­nous woman giv­ing a bear a feather as a sign of peace.

Drew has taken his work to craft shows as far away as Arizona, Eng­land and Nor­way.

“I’ve learned a lot and some of the big­gest carvers in the world, their work was there,” he said of some ex­hi­bi­tions.

When it comes to get­ting antlers for carv­ings, Drew of­ten re­lies on the barter sys­tem.

“I’ll carve them some­thing with one and they’ll give me the other antler,” he said.

While he en­joys work­ing with moose antler and wood, Drew has also used whale­bone for his carv­ings. He has made a liv­ing at it for the past 28 years – Drew’s Carv­ings – and con­tin­ues to be con­tacted by those who know his work and have their own re­quests.

A man con­tacted him re­cently, he said, ask­ing if he could carve a he­li­copter.

“I’m go­ing to do that,” he said, al­ways ready to take on a new chal­lenge.

Drew’s carv­ings have been bought by well known peo­ple in­clud­ing singer Anne Murray and late busi­ness­man Craig Dobbin. The time it takes to com­plete a carv­ing varies, he said. While he doesn’t keep track of his hours, it could be days or even weeks, de­pend­ing on the carv­ing.

On May 28, 2017, the Mealy Moun­tain Gallery (www. mealy­moun­tain­gallery.com) noted the beauty and pow­er­ful im­agery of Drew’s work comes from the songs and sto­ries of his peo­ple which he learned from child­hood in his home town of Conne River.

“Clyde cre­ates a three-di­men­sional world of spir­its and nat­u­ral forms that have cap­ti­vated both Canadian and in­ter­na­tional col­lec­tors. The in­tri­cate de­tail in his carv­ings is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing,” the web­site noted.

Some of Drew’s work is ex­hib­ited at the Art of Man Gallery in Vic­to­ria, B.C., the web­site con­tin­ued.

“The gallery, lo­cated in the his­toric Em­press Ho­tel, car­ries one of North America’s most ex­ten­sive dis­plays of Canada’s finest na­tive art,” the web­site. Mem­o­ries of Conne River Drew has carved many re­al­is­tic-look­ing an­i­mals, in­clud­ing fish and dogs.

Shar­ing mem­o­ries of his boy­hood in Conne River, he re­called fish­ing off the point, close to where his fam­ily lived.

Dogs have also found their place in Drew’s carv­ings.

He has a fond memory of his own beloved dog, King, left be­hind when his fam­ily, ini­tially, moved off the reserve.

“The dog stayed on the bank look­ing out at the wa­ter, wait­ing for our re­turn. We came back in two weeks and he was still on the bank wait­ing. We brought him home with us. That’s one thing I will never for­get.”

In a Face­book page dated March 21, 2018 about Drew’s work, the New­found­land Weav­ery de­scribed him as a “mas­ter self-taught carver,

whose work sells in­ter­na­tion­ally and are on dis­play in gal­leries across Canada.”

“Clyde cap­tures the Mi’kmaq cul­ture, his­tory and tra­di­tion in his haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful carv­ings,” the page noted.

Con­tacted by phone about Drew’s work, New­found­land Weav­ery man­ager Patty God­den said his carv­ings have been a fix­ture in the store since long be­fore she joined the staff, about two decades ago.

Those who al­ready have his carv­ings in their col­lec­tions of­ten call the store to find out what new pieces they have from him, God­den said.

“We have tourists here from all over the world... they walk around our store and they see Clyde’s carv­ings and they can’t be­lieve how in­tri­cate his work is. You’ve got hands and faces and an­i­mals, they are all just so beau­ti­ful,” she said.

When he’s not busy in his work­shop, Drew gives back to his com­mu­nity by shar­ing his talent as a song­writer and mu­si­cian, of­ten sup­port­ing fundrais­ers for var­i­ous causes.

He’s also bat­tled some se­ri­ous health issues over the years, he said, in­clud­ing open-heart surgery and throat can­cer.

Drew has some ad­vice for anyone in­ter­ested in tak­ing up carv­ing.

Carve from the soul, he said, and at­tend craft shows to learn from other carvers.

“Just re­mem­ber there is al­ways some­one out there that’s bet­ter than you. The key is to learn from them not to steal their ideas. It will make you a bet­ter carver. It did for me.”

Look­ing back on his nearly three decades of ex­pe­ri­ence as a carver, Drew said, while it is hard get­ting started, the key to suc­cess is to never give up.

“It will come, down the road, it will pay off in the end, if you stay at it long enough,” he said.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Drew’s work visit Clyde Drew on Face­book.

I take the wood or antler into my hands and I size it up un­til I see some­thing. If it’s an abo­rig­i­nal, I start by carv­ing the nose on its face. Once I do the face first, I’ll re­volve ev­ery­thing around that... it could be ea­gles or bears but that all comes af­ter­wards.”

Clyde Drew

Ac­cord­ing to Clyde Drew, learning from oth­ers, will help make you a bet­ter carver and the key to suc­cess is to never give up.

One of the pieces Clyde Drew found most dif­fi­cult to sell, be­cause it meant so much, was of an Indige­nous woman giv­ing a bear a feather as a sign of peace.

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