Hobby in stone
Young artist finds his way from within

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

FORT GOOD HOPE (Oct 18/99) - Jason Dean gained his arts education at the best known carving school in the NWT -- a government-run facility called the Yellowknife Correctional Centre.

With time on his hands, the young Fort Good Hope man watched the older inmates carving and one day tried his own hand at paring away the stone.

Since then, the 23-year-old has sold a few thousand dollars worth of carvings, but has no plans to make a career of it.

"It's just a hobby for me," Dean said. "I have my days when I don't really feel like carving, I just couldn't do it everyday."

Dean studied the work of many of his Eastern Arctic friends and says he styles his sculptures after the work of Darrel and Ronny Taylor.

The Inuit influence is evident in the style he carves -- leaving much of the stone and putting more emphasis in contrast, texture and colour.

"Choosing the right base is very important," he said. "I like something that will complement the carving and make it stand out."

"If it was all black, no one would even notice it."

He'll leave the tail or head of an eagle polished, but not buffed to separate; the base of a carving white alabaster, with black wonderstone for the main art -- dramatic differences and fine details that reveal more talent than one would expect from such a new artist.

He's dropped a few and felt like throwing a few, when things don't go just right, but he's very methodical about the work.

"I've never smashed one -- I've seen people do that, but I'll just walk away from it for a while."

"I just leave it there, where it's going to be in my way," he said. "I look at it and look at it. I try to figure out the easiest way to carve it."

"If I see cracks in the stone I don't try and carve through them, I'll carve around them," Dean said.

Taking his time is one of the reasons he feels he could never make a living with his hobby.

"I do all of my work with hand tools, so it takes a few days to complete a carving," he said. "I have friends who can do three or four carvings in three or four hours."

He hopes to one day have the time and material to do a large piece in the tradition of the great carvers.

I plan to do a really big carving someday," he said.

"Like a totem pole -- something that tells a story. With carvings all over it, like a big abstract."

While he plans to continue carving to pass time and make some extra pocket money,

Dean says he has no plans to return to his "art school" for any upgrading.