Miniature Argillite Sea Otter with Octopus Carving by Melanie Russ, Haida

This miniature carving is of a sea otter eating an octopus. The small details, such as the tentacles of the octopus, eyes, mouth and paws of the sea otter are tremendous. The surface of the carving is textured by hand with small tiny tool marks, reflecting light with each carving stroke.

Haida form line shapes are carved in detail on this piece as well.

This piece is made of argillite, which is a protected volcanic slate found on one mountaintop on Haida Gwaii and is carved by Haida artist, Melanie Russ, who specializes in argillite carving.

Material: Argillite

Design: This piece features a sea otter. Although in nature, sea otters are known to eat urchins, this one is cleverly eating an octopus.

About Argillite: 

Argillite is a black stone that is geologically classified as slate. The argillite from Haida Gwaii is found on one mountaintop and is protected by the Haida Nation as a stone exclusively carved by the Haida people.

This stone’s geological formation makes it unique compared to argillite found elsewhere. Exposure to high heats allowed this argillite to cool and form in a way that was strong enough to be carved, yet soft enough to take on fine carving details and sculpting.

Once this stone was found by Haida artists its true transformation began.

Meet the Artist:

Melanie Russ is the daughter of the late Haida artists, Faye Russ and Ed Russ, and is from Skidegate on the islands of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, Canada.

Her father began teaching her to carve when she was a very young girl and though he passed away some time ago she expresses the feeling that he is still with her, guiding her, reminding her to look at the rough argillite, then to close her eyes and a design will come. Her mother Faye was also instrumental in her education as an artist and remains a potent influence in her creative process, often working on sculptures together. Her work is a depiction of the classic iconography of her Haida lineage.

Melanie is one of few women Haida carvers and is known for her intricate detail in jewelry and carvings.

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