History Of Argillite Styles

Argillite carvings have been created in a variety of forms including various styles of pipes, flutes, sinel figures, group figurines, circular dishes, platters, bowls, compotes (plate on a platter), poles, boxes, personal ornaments (amulets, labrets, medallions), models of Haida houses as well as models of Euro-American objects. Some argillite carvings are decorated with inlays of shell, metals, ivory, bone and other materials. These inlays accentuate various aspects of specific pieces. The sun casts clear copper rays, and a figure is able to stare out of a pair of shimmering abalone eyes.

In attempting to discuss and define the changing styles of argillite carving from the beginnings of their manufacture to their multiple contemporary forms, it must be realized that many of the works aquired from Haida individuals in the past were done so in a time very different than that of today. At the time contact between the Haida and Euro-American occurred, Haida ideas of “art” were very different from those of today. The past was known through oral histories, myths, and legends. It was through this period of drastic change that argillite art was created. The many changes are reflected in the changing styles portrayed in the argillite. These different styles can be interpreted as defining and depicting certain segments of time and the events occurring during their creation.