For over 20 years Crystal Cabin has been collecting and selling authentic hand-carved Haida art. We're honoured to work with Haida Master carvers with years of experience, as well as with emerging artists, and those who are still in their apprentice stage, learning and exploring their style. But regardless of age or experience of a carver, we know that each piece is crafted with careful attention and precision to make it clean and beautiful for years to come.
Traditionally, Haida people wore tattoos, arm cuffs and body jewelry to express their identity, lineage, and social rank. Each design, referred to by the Haida and other northwest coast peoples as a crest, is the intellectual property of the owner and is treated as such. This means that every crest has a story that belongs to a family and it is important to honour them.
The crests visible on the jewelry you see today have been recognized by the Haida for millennia. These visually striking designs of flowing lines and satisfying symmetry are easily identifiable as traditional Haida style form line. Each Haida person has a selection of crests that they are allowed to wear to identify which clan and family they come from.
As people are looking to experience Haida Gwaii and learn more about Haida culture, we regularly receive questions about Haida art and how to go about purchasing a piece, whether that be jewelry, a carving, or sometimes even a 50 ft pole. (Yes people do go shopping for Haida carved poles. How do you fit that in your suitcase??)
To help you choose the perfect piece of Haida art or jewelry, we've prepared some background information to help answer some of your commonly asked questions, including:
What do these crests mean?
How does someone who is not of Haida descent choose a crest?
Worry not, we have the answers to your questions!
Recognizing the Designs
Before you choose a piece of jewelry with a crest, you should first learn to identify its features and understand the intention behind the animal, human, or supernatural being. Below are some of the more commonly seen crests and the main features that you can look for.
Flat, elongated beak, large eyes
Raven is the Trickster and is known for discovering the first Haida people in a large clam shell. His curiosity often gets him into trouble, from which we can learn.
Curved beak, outstretched or folded wings
Eagle is wise and watches carefully. The strength of an eagle's wings carries him even in the toughest winds.
Large teeth, dorsal and pectoral fins, curved tail fin
Killer whale is fast and brave, guarding the ocean realm.
Large sharp teeth, blunt snout and curled fluffy tail
Wolf is loyal and confident, traveling in packs to survive and flourish
Large sharp teeth, flared nostrils, large claws
Bear, though a large being, is quiet. He is a very intelligent being, using his knowledge of fishing to survive.
Very long, thin beak. Usually depicted with flowers.
Hummingbird is a carrier of love, as two are often shown together. They bring light and happiness
Learn About the Story
The Haida have recalled stories of these animal life forms for generations upon generations. Each story tells a lesson, documents an important moment in time, and records history word for word. There are many resources available to learn from, such as the following books:
- “Raven Steals the Light,” By Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst
- “Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art," By Diana Augaitis
- “Out of Concealment: Female Supernatural Beings of Haida Gwaii," By Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson
Your Connection Matters
After considering the traits of these beings you can ask yourself which you most identify with. Do you want to represent your love for someone? Are you entering a time in your life with newfound curiosity or exploring new depths of life? Once you start identifying your personal connection to these traits, you can better connect with the jewelry and story itself. This connection is key to owning a piece of Haida art, as the art is a signifier and timekeeper of Haida culture for thousands of years. Honouring the life form depicted in the crest will help you to make the best decision so you can carry a piece that you love for the rest of your life!
We have a quality selection of hand carved silver and argillite jewelry and carvings available! Shop now or visit us in Haida Gwaii to see the full selection!