Master carver hosts grand opening for new shop in Yuquot

Yuquot, BC

Sanford Williams (Ahtsik-sta), master carver of Mowachaht, he has been honing his craft for almost 40 years. He started out painting as a teenager and with inspiration from his uncle, Chief Dominic Andrew, Williams would begin his journey to becoming a master carver.

“My uncle used to carve all the time in the morning,” said Williams. “That really sparked an interest in me and in my art and my carving world.”

“My mom told me…if you can paint you can carve, also,” added Williams.  “I tried carving and then I liked it and never stopped since then.”

Williams said that it means a lot to him to have learned his craft from his uncle and hopes that there are youth that he can pass his teachings too.

“He’s the one that started me in my carving,” said Williams, in reference to his uncle. “He taught me… in the beginning how to split [the wood], [and] how to get it ready for a mask.”

“He was a big part in the beginning of my carving career,” he added.

Throughout Williams’ career, he has carved masks, paddles, totems, plaques and murals, doors, among other items. 

Roughly a two-hour ferry ride from the Gold River Municipal Docks, on Nootka Island at “the center of the world,” is the Mowachaht village, Yuquot. Along the beach at friendly cove is where Williams has spent three months of the year carving and selling his work to tourists for the past 35 years.

For the last 20 Williams carved and sold his work from his lower shop, down on the beach.

“Being out here in Yuquot,” said Williams when asked what inspires his work. “I love carving out here because it’s so isolated and quiet at times.”

“That gives me inspiration to do my work,” he added.

Near the beach in Friendly Cove, a newly built shop sits among tall standing trees next to the ocean, only a short distance from the docks.

June 28 marked his grand opening for this new shop, which Williams named after his late-father, Ghoo-noon-tuk-tomith, meaning spirit of the wolf.

Williams was joined by family, Jimmy Johnson Jr, Eddie Jack, Dwight Amos, Hilary Savey, Carmen Savey, and Marge Amos, who traveled to Yuquot to sing songs for his grand opening.

“I’ll do anything for my uncle,” shared Jimmy Johnson Jr. “It makes me happy to come out here - our other home, our first home - and come and support him on his big day for his grand opening.”

While Williams cut the ribbon in front of his shop, his family sang and danced.

“That’s our victory song,” said Johnson Jr. 

“I wanted to come out and show him that we love him,” said Johnson Jr to the crowd that gathered outside William’s shop.

Before William's father Ray passed away, he wanted his son to have a nice and new shop to carve in, said Sanford. The two of them pitched in and work started on the building.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without my dad,” said Williams to the crowd. “I’m lucky to welcome all of you to my new shop."

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