The annual Carving on Edge Festival celebrates the traditional and contemporary west coast wood carving arts, the carving artists and the rich cultural history of the region.  With the goal to encourage the growth of the carving community and to build much-needed cultural bridges, the festival offers opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the coastal traditions of carving.

For thousands of years the monumental trees of the coastal temperate rainforests in Clayoquot Sound have inspired a rich and diverse carving culture – from the practical purposes of the dug-out canoe to the ceremonial roles of headdresses and record-keeping of great totem poles. Coastal carving has made unique contributions to fine art and archival collections around the world.

Carving on the Edge Festival was born in 2010 on a stormy day at the Tin Wis carving shed in Tofino. A group of Nuu-chah-nulth carvers, elders and culture-makers met for three days to talk about the traditions and cultural teachings of west coast carving. They gathered ideas on how to share and teach their skills with others – carvers, communities, and youth – with the purpose of growing the carving community while sharing traditional teachings and stories.

The group made a commitment to develop an annual Carving on the Edge festival and called themselves ‘Keepers of the Festival’. They formed a not-for-profit society. The same group of carvers and culture-makers remain committed to the festival today.

Each year we gather in Clayoquot Sound to host the only annual festival in BC that celebrates traditional and contemporary carving arts. Our participating master carvers lead the festival’s themes with input from the rest of the festival’s carving community. Our programming includes a wide range of workshops, exhibitions, artist talks, guided tours, and performances geared towards everyone from the curious public to experienced carvers.

To inspire the growth of the traditional and contemporary west coast carving arts through celebration, education and relationship building.

We aim to:

  • Create opportunities for cultural and artistic communications and exchanges amongst the world’s carving communities and public.
  • Present educational seminars and workshops that teach history and artistic accomplishments of traditional and contemporary west coast carving, endeavouring to raise the standards of cultural achievement.
  • Enhance appreciation of the importance and stature of traditional carving arts of First Nations and aboriginal peoples by showcasing their rich cultural heritage.
  • Deliver public presentations by historians and carvers on contemporary and historic carving arts that focus on carving traditions that form the foundation of contemporary explorations.
  • Create opportunities for storytelling.
  • Produce an art show that features applications of contemporary carvings.
  • Acknowledge the importance & stature of BC’s traditional coastal arts in the world cultural community.

The Carving on the Edge Festival Board of Directors is comprised of its founding members and newly committed members. We are comprised of both First Nations and non-First Nations in an organic grouping that brought us together through commitment and involvement.

  1. Tim Paul, Co-chair, Nuu-chah-nulth artist and cultural historian, founding member of Society & Festival. 2012
  2. Christopher Roy, Co-chair, owner of Marketworks Media Inc. Since 2014
  3. Norma Dryden, Treasurer, cultural planner, founding member of Society & Festival. 2012
  4. Marilyn Brewer, Director, retired cultural planner, founding member of Society & Festival. 2012
  5. Joe David, Director, Nuu-chah-nulth artist and cultural historian, Founding member of Society & Festival. 2012
  6. Gordon Dick, Director, Nuu-chah-nulth artist, owner of Ahtsik Gallery in Port Alberni BC. Since 2014

Festival programs and artist collaborations have contributed to three significant public art installations found in Tofino, Port Alberni and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

‘Weeping Cedar Woman’, District of Tofino Public Art 2016. Artist: Godfrey Stephens
The 2013 Carving on the Edge Festival initiated the purchase and return of the 1984 carving to Tofino. It was carved to aid the protest of logging the ancient rainforests of Clayoquot Sound with a message ‘to stop and consider nature.’ It is the first public art acquisition by the District of Tofino.

‘Teaching Foresight’, Gaiga Park, Port Alberni, BC 2015 Artists: Gordon Dick and Kelly Robinson
Teaching Foresight is a 10-foot cedar panel that was carved during the week of the 2015 Carving on the Edge Festival, and now stands as a public art installation.

Nuu-chah-nulth Totem Pole, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, 2015,  Artists: Qwaya Sam, Kelly Robinson, Robinson Cook and Francine Champagne.
Native and non-native carvers met and formed the team at the 2014 Carving on the Edge Festival. The pole was dedicated in 2015 at Vancouver Island University campus, and is a one of four poles on the site representing the surrounding native territories.



Carver’s Talking Circle at the 2016 festival