John Livingston. First Nation Artist

John Livingston. First Nation Artist

John Livingston:
Master Carver and Painter of Northwest Native Art……..
Sharry and I stopped in Victoria to visit with John Livingston and his wife Maxine Matilpi.  Unfortunately, we missed Maxine because she was at Gilford Island teaching women how to make button blankets, a traditional art form of the coastal people which is her specialty.   John came to dinner on Starr and we talked about our growing friendship over the past 30 or so years.

Stabbert Totem by JL

John carved this pole for Sharry and I many years ago.
That’s me on the bottom, Brent and Brooke in the middle and Sharry is the mischievous Raven on top.
The pole now lives on my brother Dan Stabberts beach at Obstruction Pass at the south end of Orcas Island
 The next day we went to John’s studio to look at some of his current projects.

John & Sharry

John is an adopted Kwakwaka’wakw (Pacific Northwest Coast Indigenous people)  master carver born in Victoria B.C. He was taught to carve by Henry and Tony Hunt in the early 1970’s.  His artwork is in numerous major collections, including in the Metropolitan Museum. Below is a 3-minute video about John at the MIM, Musical Instruments Museum, in Scottsdale Arizona.
I asked John many questions about how he started as a carver and painter; I wanted to know the story about how a Scotsman was adopted into one of the most artistic and respected North Coast native families.
As a 14-year-old teenager, John and his friend Henry Hunt Jr. carved small masks and totems for pocket money.  Many members of the Hunt family are descended from a long line of chiefs in the Kwakwaka’wakw Band based in Fort Rupert, just south of Port McNeil on Vancouver Island. 
The more time he spent with the Hunt family the more involved he became in their traditions and history. John’s mom and dad were both college educated, his mom had a Master’s Degree in social work and his dad a Master’s Degree from Cornell in geology. When John told his parents that he wanted to skip college to carve and paint, he was given complete support to follow his passion.  Over time, John lived with the Hunt family and fished, carved, danced and potlatched with them. 
John has worked on many large commissions with the late Henry Hunt, Tony Hunt, Calvin Hunt, Tony Hunt Jr., Don Yeomans, Robert Davidson, Tim Paul and Art Thompson
Over the years John began doing native art restorations for many museums in both Canada, the US and Europe.  He also became recognized as an expert in native art values, and is retained by many museums to appraise their North Coast art collections.
John is a very hard worker and never a day goes by where he isn’t carving, painting or in a native village helping with some creative project.  He has a sense of scale that is valued by the pole carvers and is asked to help shape out the basics when they are starting a new pole. This requires knowing how to handle a chainsaw sometimes with a 4ft blade.

JL with 4ft chainsaw blade

John showing his 4ft chainsaw blade for shaping logs into totem poles
 Imagine being asked to rough out a totem on a 1000-year-old seasoned log that has been stored like a rare million-dollar bottle of wine, and with one slip of the chainsaw the log is ruined!  On the next day John might be carving a 5×8 inch chief’s frontlet using tiny carving tools, and every detail is of utmost importance!
5″x8″ Bear Mother Frontlet

Head piece currently being replicated by John

Partially completed head piece sections

JL & Sharry mocking up the parts

JL Describing how the head piece is worn

John Livingston is a very special person, quiet, soft spoken and very humble.
  We are honored to be considered one of his friends.
More about John found here:
    Posted at 15:14h, 30 July Reply

    SUBJECT: Re: John Livingston is a very special person

    Aloha Sharry & Don,

    I am regularly reading your newsletter. I am so glad I know you guys and
    happy to see your amazing journey around the globe. It”s really
    interesting to reading about all kinds of challenges and experiences
    through the Pacific, but this latest email about John Livingston inspires
    me to write back to you. I am so impressed by your family totem pole. It is
    an amazing piece, such a wonderful job and it stands a great spot by the
    water. I am sure that is a magical place. I also love the story of John, to
    see an artist”s works in progress, especially with the big scale of wood,
    is stunning.

    Life is really nice and peaceful here on Big Island. We are renting a nice
    house 4 rooms, big kitchen – I love it so much – Kai has a studio in the
    house and I have a small office, so we barely leave the house. Luckily, in
    the last few months, we were busy with a few commisions, one was on Oahu,
    and one huge mural here at the Hilo Harbor. We are planning to visit my
    family in September, and when we returned we will start to build our house.
    We are so excited. Slowly we started clearing the lot already. We will do a
    photo series of the formation of the property, once its done I will show

    I am hoping you will return to Hawaii in the autumn, and I can visit you.

    Looking forward to reading about more of your journey.

    Thake care,
    Sending warm Aloha from Big Island

    On Sat, Jul 28, 2018 at 7:02 AM Starr”s Blog < blogcomments-OW65H@[...]> wrote:

    —Reply posted by don sta on 7/31/2018
    Hi Angela

    Have fun ou your upcoming trip and keep us up to date regarding your new home.

    Take care


    Posted at 23:43h, 30 July Reply

    SUBJECT: Re: John Livingston is a very special person

    What a great report! Thanks.

    > On Jul 28, 2018, at 10:02 AM, Starr”s Blog wrote:

    Posted at 13:32h, 08 August Reply

    SUBJECT: Re: John Livingston is a very special person

    Don & Sharry:  Eileen and I have followed your adventures in Alaska this year and really enjoyed the extensive blog.  It reinforced my desire to do the inside passage & Alaska.   We just got back from a week”s local cruise aboard the Max Grody.  Water temps here in So.Cal. the warmest I have ever seen.  77 degrees last week in the San Pedro Channel and 82 degrees in Newport Beach harbor.  We are for the present staying close to home, as my 98 year old mom is in failing health, fell broke hip etc. etc..  so not making a trip north to Wash. this summer.   Keep up the blog we love it.  Peter & Eileen Anderson

    From: Starr”s Blog
    To: peter@l…
    Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2018 10:02 AM
    Subject: John Livingston is a very special person

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