Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Anonymous Algonquin Couple Paddle Replica

Another unique paddle design replicated for the upcoming WCHA assembly  is from an illustration by an anonymous artist. Dated to between 1750-1780, the painting in the collection of the City of Montreal archive illustrates an Algonquin couple in period clothing.  The male figure holds a paddle over his shoulder.

Algonquine, Algonquin . - [ca 1750]-[ca 1780]
Ville de Montréal. Section des archives
CA M001 BM007-2-D27-P004

The paddle has a fairly unique shape, a short blade design with recurved shoulders, a lengthy shaft and a distinct bobble shape grip. It seems very reminiscent of modern day SUP paddles hitting the market.

In any event, I had an idea to re-use an incomplete blank that was begun years ago and never finished. At the time, I used a narrow maple board and laminated some walnut edges to make a whitewater paddle with an experimental Battenkill Grip.

Laminating walnut edging

Original whitewater blank

In the end, I never really did much whitewater paddling and the finishing the blnk no longer became a priority. The short blade design seemed suitable to re-purpose into this display paddle but the overall shaft length was too short. So a simple shaft splice was done with some maple stock and the shaft extended. Here is a photo after the splice and with the blade roughly re-cut.

Ended up cutting the shaft down a bit more and used the bits to laminate a cube at the grip. The was eventually worked down to form a bobble grip similar to the original artwork. I had some blue and red Tremclad Rust paint on hand for the blade decoration, but ended up using a torch to burn the shaft and grip to a charred finish.  Here is the final result...

Circa 1750-1780 Algonquin Paddle Replica

Friday, June 15, 2018

Davies, Berczy & Armstrong paddle replica

Just completed another display paddle for the upcoming WCHA Assembly in Peterborough this summer. My presentation on Saturday July 21 will focus on decorative themes featured in various artworks over the centuries. One such pattern that consistently occurs in several artworks is the "checkerboard" pattern where the blade is painted in opposite quadrants, sometimes with additional decorative elements.

The earliest painting illustrating this pattern I could source is by British Artist, Thomas Davies (1737 - 1812). His painting entitled  A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec.. is dated to 1788 and features a standing figure holding a short canoe paddle decorated an alternating red pattern. The native group is thought to be Abenaki or Huron / Wendat based on the canoe designs and clothing.

A View near Point Levy opposite Quebec with an Indian Encampment, Taken in 1788 (1788 )
 Thomas Davies (1737 - 1812)

Davies' Paddle Closeup

Decades later the red checkered pattern appears on a work by William Bent Berczy (1791 – 1873) entitled Indian Encampment near Amherstburg features a stylized shore scene. In the rear is a bark canoe and a set of decorated paddles lying on the ground.

Indian Encampment near Amherstburg, c. 1819-1830
William Bent Berczy
British, Canadian, 1791 - 1873
watercolour over graphite on wove paper

A closeup reveals that one paddle looks to have a single side painted red while the one underneath has the diagonal checkered pattern with red paint. Given that the paddle grip was not depicted in the earlier work by Davies, I ended up using Berczy's illustration as the source for my reproduction.

Berczy Painted Paddle's Closeup

Then 30+ years later, the decorative element occurs again in multiple works of William Armstrong.

Hudson's Bay Store, Fort William c. 1860-1870 
William Armstrong
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30490)

Indians Completing a Portage
William Armstrong
1873 watercolor 
Library and Archives Canada, Mikan #2833414

Paddle Closeup (far right corner of original image)

The Distribution of the Government Bounty on Great Manitouling Island 1856
William Armstrong

Paddle Closeup (bottom left corner of original image)

Echoing the images portraying rather short paddles, I carved this one from an offcut of basswood. In the end it has a 21 inch blade and an overall length of 4 feet, making it quite suitable for one of my sons to use. It has a blunt, flattened grip as in the Berczy painting. On one side, I included the additional dot element from Davies' work in 1788 and on the other painted the simple checkered pattern found in later artworks of Armstrong.

Paddle Reproduction from Davies, Berczy and Armstrong

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Codex Canadensis Odawa Paddle Replica - Part 2

For the upcoming WCHA assembly display showcasing various historical depictions of decorative paddles, I've decided to carve a reproduction from the remarkably illustrated manuscript, Codex canadensis, dated to circa 1700.

Representing one of the oldest decorative depiction of canoe paddles by an illustrator who actually journey through much of Eastern Canada, the  manuscript is believed to have been by Louis Nicolas , a French missionary who spent 11 years in Canada during the late-seventeenth century.  Nicolas was never trained as a formal artist so the proportions of his illustrations are not to scale. The paddle blades are also crudely drawn and not symmetrical but it is interesting to note that nearly all of his drawings show no discernible grip end. The true ethnographic value however is in the details. Many of the paddles feature lines, decorative dots, zig zags and other elements that echo the full body tattoo featured and described  on First Nations people of the period

The specific  paddle illustration I chose to replicate is depicted on Page 18 of the Codex canadensis. The upper canoe is labelled "Canot a loutaouase" - an Odawa (Ottawa) canoe. It has distinctly sharp ends along with various decorations on the hull. The accompanying paddle features a relatively broad, leaf-like blade with a tapering shaft ending in a pole grip.

p. 18, Fig. 23
Outaouase (Odawa) canoe and paddle

Another wide basswood cutoff short was used for this paddle reproduction. In keeping with the more dated history of the original inspiration, the paddle was worked down with an axe and crooked knife and I was less careful about the symmetry with this one. The tapering shaft worked down to a pole grip and certainly feels strange to anyone used to perfectly round paddle shafts, a pear grip and a beavertail blade.

Basswood of course lends itself to wonderful shading with pyrography so I attempted to mimic Nicolas' original sketch with ink and quill with quick strokes of the heated wood burning tip. However,  In the original a portion of the upper throat is blocked by the bow of the canoe, so some artistic license was needed to fill in the masked areas. Here is the final result.

Reproduction of the circa 1700 Codex canadensis
Outaouase (Odawa) paddle

Friday, May 18, 2018

Historic Paddle Illustrations - More Verner

Here are two more images of decorated paddles from prolific artist Frederick A. Verner (1838 - 1926).

Frederick A Verner
Indians in a Canoe

Frederick A Verner
Ojibwa Crossing Lake Nipissing with Cargo of Furs

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Circa 1860 "Delaware" Paddle Replica

Another replica chosen for its unique shape and decoration is based on the circa 1860 paddles briefly discussed in previous posts. Described originally as “A Pair of Painted Wood Oars, Probably Lorette-Huron.”, they first appeared in an auction catalog from 1998.

“A Pair of Painted Wood Oars, Probably Lorette-Huron.”
Important American Indian Art
Sotheby’s New York
May 19,1998, lot 726
Original Post Link

Later, they were being sold again and were further listed as maple paddles circa 1860s attributed to the Delaware (Lenape) tribe.

circa 1860 "Delaware" paddles

I finished carving out the design (based on the larger stern paddle) out of some basswood stock last fall. The poor quality color photo of the paddles illustrated a a rather simple decorative element with a dark, blackish tone next to a faded brown-red paint. An alternating series of dots rise up from the midpoint of the blade up to the thwart. I was just about to start painting when I came across on an advertisement in a back issue of American Indian Art Magazine (original post link). The blade on the left was a closeup of the shorter bow paddle easily identified with the drip marks on the black dots.

Ad from American Indian Art Magazine
Spring 2015, Volume 40, Issue 2

This better resolution image revealed that the maple wood had aged to brownish patina and that the reddish paint was a semi-transparent coat revealing some of the underlying grain pattern.

Given that basswood is a very light cream colour, a decision was made to stain the paddle using some of Minwax Gel Antique Stain. I also had some Tremclad Red paint left over from refurbishing the 14' Chestnut canoe so used this for the red decoration. Despite directions on the label not to thin the paint, I used a substantial amount of thinner to achieve the desired semi-transparent look. Instead of drilling the three holes in the handle, I simply burned three dots to mimic the effect. Here is the final result:

ca 1860 paddle replica

Similar to this earlier post of the Naskapi (Innu) paddle, I converted my image to greyscale graphic in order to compare with the original.

circa 1860 "Delaware" paddle and my reproduction 

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