A trip to the workshop of Peter Wayne Gong, Coast Salish artist and carver is an experience in itself, with the smell of sweet cedar welcoming you, along with an opportunity to speak to the craftsman and see first-hand his love of the work he creates, embodying his connection to his nation, the land and long oral history shared through the generations.
Growing up in Whonnock, just west of Mission and spending much of his childhood on the Fraser River, his ties to nature are apparent with eagle, beaver, salmon and otter just some of the depictions on display in the form of carved masks, painted bent boxes, rattles, combs and plaques. Offering a variety and depth of design that easily compares to the high-end product sold in Vancouver, and sought by both locals and international visitors.
First learning the basics of carving and tool making as a teen, Peter went on to a life in the lumber mills, became a father and set aside any carving aspirations until the mill closed in 2009. Then able to look for a new direction, the idea of developing and honing the basic skills he had learnt from his Uncle took on a renewed interest; so with three carving knives, Peter went back to school to learn design, carving, framing and painting; spending two years understanding Formline art, traditionally used by indigenous artists.
He credits much of his success to his two Mission mentors Tom Pattison and Sean Hinton, along with a strong desire to improve with each piece crafted. Plus, having the opportunity to work in partnership with other carvers on large scale projects including a house post gifted by the District of Mission to Oyama in Japan and helping to carve the two welcome figures for BC Hydro for the 2010 Winter Olympics are two of his proudest accomplishments.
Now able to share his skills with the Mission youth, Peter has not only created much of the art work found in Mission’s school entrance ways, but also volunteers his time in the classroom, teaching indigenous art techniques and having the opportunity to share some of the stories and legends he heard as a child.
Visit Peter at his workshop for a unique encounter and get to know the person behind the art at 7265 Wardrop Street, Mission, B.C.
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