Argillite

(Color: Black or diverse shades of gray / hardness 3-7 / Occurrence: Haida Gwaii BC Canada)

The Haida Nation is renowned for its beautiful "black slate" or argillite carvings. The Haida began carving argillite in response to the early curio trade of the 1820's, amongst British explorers and settlers. Soon the artistic accomplishments of the Haida in the use of materials such as wood, horn, and stone included this new medium. While argillite used to be known as a form of tourist art, it has grown to become one of the most sought after art forms in North American First Nations art. Even today, argillite continues to be carved exclusively by Haida artists both on Haida Gwaii and in the Vancouver and Victoria areas.

Gary Olver
Originally from Northern Manitoba and of Cree descent, Gary Olver moved to British Columbia in 1975 and, inspired by Northwest Coast art, he learned to carve argillite and studied with established Artist Tom Eneas. Gary developed a unique and personal approach to argillite carving, and is now one of the best miniature carvers on the Northwest Coast. Before his artistic career, Olver worked as a professional actor in films and television series, such as X-Files and Highlander. His acting career came to a halt during a tragic accident in which some of his speech was lost. During this time he began to carve to help his dexterity and with time he developed a keen interest in making art. Catlinite, also known as “pipe stone,” is traditionally carved by the Cree and was traded with people living on the Northwest Coast. Gary incorporates this stone into his argillite work to acknowledge his roots, as well as to expand his design possibilities. He has also had his works cast in silver and gold to make exquisite jewelry pieces.