Sunday, March 14, 2010

Totem Poles


We will soon be starting work on our next project. We will be making totem poles. This will be a group project, and the plan is that when they are finished, our totem poles will be installed outside somewhere on the school grounds (exact location to be determined).

As an introduction to this project, today you will be reading some information about totem poles, and looking at some pictures. At the bottom of this post, you will find your assignment for today.

Sometime in the next few days, you will be receiving more specific information about the actual project that you will be doing. (Note: you will see in the pictures below that actual totem poles are very large, and are carved out of wood. We will not be carving; rather, we will be making a series of relief sculpture totems out of wood, which will then be mounted on poles.)

Here is a definition/explanation about totems and totem poles, found on the Internet:

A totem is a representation of an animal, a plan, or a natural object that serves among certain tribal or traditional peoples as an emblem or as a guardian. Or, the animal, plant or natural object itself.

A totem pole is a traditional form among artists of various Native peoples of the "Northwest Coast" -- British Columbia, Canada, an southern Alaska, USA. Carved from mature cedar trees, full size totem poles were originally an important part of the Potlatch ceremony, a feast with deep meaning to coastal First Nation. Totem poles were once carved and raised to represent a family-clan, its kinship system and stories. A totem pole served, in essence, as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry. It might be raised to honor a deceased elder, or to show the number of names and rights a person had acquired over their lifetime, or to record an encounter with a supernatural being, or to symbolize the generosity of a person who sponsored a Potlatch ceremony. contemporary totem poles are carved for both Natives and non-Natives, and have come to represent the Northwest Pacific Coast Native tradition and pride.


Older/historical totem poles (mid-1800s to early 1900s)

Newer/contemporary totem poles (mid-1900s to early 2000s)

Student examples (Ours will be somewhat similar to these-- relief sculptures mounted on poles. Note the limited color scheme. We will be making some decisions such as layout/design and color scheme as a class-- this is a collaborative project where everyone will be working together.)

Photo above is from the book From Ordinary to Extraordinary by Ken Vieth

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Your assignment for today:

As we have done previously, you will be posting a "comment" below, in which you will respond to the following:

1. Post two links to pictures of totem poles that you like, and for each picture, explain what it is that you like and why you like it. (3 points for each link/picture; 6 points total)

2. Off the top of your head, what do you think you might chose as your personal totem? Animal, plant, other natural object, or something altogether different? Please explain your choice. This choice does not need to be what you will use for your project-- it can be, or you can give it some more thought once we actually start working on the project. (4 points)

For your research, you can of course use Google etc, but here is a really great website with a ton of links about totem poles.


Anonymous said...

it looks like a penguin!
i really enjoy eagles because they represent freedom...and they're our national bird

Anonymous said...

joe humphreys
while this is a close-up of a totem pole, i really like the exaggerated facial features. The mint green around the eyes is a feature i would like to emulate in my own sculpture. The color scheme is great.
i love the monochromatic desaturated color scheme. the two noses that stick out are a surprising feature that makes this one so unique. i like the upside down face at the bottom.

originally, i planned on doing on some sort of plant. but after look at the first picture shown above, i think i want to do a face. i think it could look really striking with exaggerated features and a pretty cool color scheme.

Anonymous said...

These totem poles are rustic, but really well carved and the subject matter is apparent.

These totem poles are humorous and colorful. I like them, and they would be cute fr parties and decorations.

I would want to make an aminal totem pole, either animals of teh same region in the world, so they are related, or my favorite animals.

Caitlin DeMara

Anonymous said...

celia eddy

i chose this one becuase i like the large potions of wood that are sticking out of it(the nose) and i like that it looks like small bodies.

i chose thiss totem pole because i like the swirly quality it has, and i remind me of like weeds growing wildly!

3. i'm not really sure what i will want to make, and even though the faces on the totem poles are cool looking, i don't really feel like making a face. i think i might just want to come up with some sort of design that i will carve out of the wood. the second picture i found sort of inspired me to create more of a design than a single object!

Anonymous said...


They're so colorful and amusing.

They are so tiny and cute

I would choose mythical creatures because I like mythology.


Anonymous said...

I like the contrasting shapes in the first one, as well as the facial expressions.
The second one seems to be a good representation of what we are going to be doing. It looks like a relief sculpture because it's not completely 3 dimensional.
I choose the last ine because it was small in comparison to most totem poles and done in a more whimsical matter.

I'm not sure what I'll do for mines yet....I may choose a squirrel or chipmunk type creature? I could end up doing a stylized face.


Anonymous said...

I like this one because I thinnk the Native American looking totem poles are the best. I like how the eagle is always on the top.
I like this one because I like the eagles.

I don't really know what my personal totem would be. I do know that my personal totem would be an animal. I love animals but there are too many to choose from. I do like the eagles the best. I think it is cool that they are usually on top and that their wings stick out. I wouldn't say my personal totem would be an eagle but I do like eagles.

Emma J.

Anonymous said...
Well like the tiki totem pole because well its a tiki.
i like the other totem pole because it exstends through a two story building.

I might put a fish on it but if i go with my native american animal friend it would be the wolf. reason why becuase i would like to stay with tradition or i can mix it up with something new.

Anonymous said...

1) I really like how these ones are on flatter pieces of wood; I like the simplicity of them, and the way they are all bunched together in a cluster.
The wings are especially cool to me, I also dig the colors on this one.

2) My totem would probably be somesort of animal, decorated with sweet designs.

Anonymous said...

The one above is Madeline Toro.

Anonymous said...

The one above is Madeline Toro.

Anonymous said...

1. I really like this one because it looks so old and worn, and I love the totem poles that have the bird totems at the very top. I really like this one for its simplicity in color, but just such cool carvings that it completely makes up for it.

In addition, I also like this one for its detail - and for its awesome aged look and again, with the bird with the big streched out wings at the top.

2. Off the top of my head, I'm definately going to do a wolf totem as it's a very symbolic animal for me; really connected to the part of me that absolutely adores nature, and the Native American in my blood. I'd love to try to encorporate some elk antlers (of course not real, but the likeness of them) into it as well, with a small white oak leaf either at the wolf's forehead or otherwise.

~Lindsey Burcar

Anonymous said...
Well i like the tiki pole because well its a tiki. I like the other totem pole because it extends through the two story building.

I might put a fish on it but if i go with my native american animal it would be the wolf. reason why because i would like to stay with tradition or i can mix it up with something new.

Kurt Brush

Anonymous said...
1. I choose this one because i like the pretty blue of the birds face.I also like the bold features of the face.
2. I picked this one because of the use of colors on the bird it catches my I and also the full figure wof the bird can be seen its kind of more unique than just a pole.

3.I think off the top of my haed I will do a bird because from the pictures i've they can be bolder in the face with just about any color and you can still cleary see its a bird.

Anonymous said...

I like the colors used on this totem pole because they make it stand out.
I like the details of the eagle because it makes it look like a traditional totem pole.

2. I might choose an animal such as an eagle because it represents a traditional totem pole. I like the traditional totem poles.

Rebecca Reichenbach

Anonymous said...
- I just thought this one was cute, and I liked the way that they used the entire animal for the totem instead of just a general likeness.
- I like the face that this one goes against the conventional concept of a totem pole and uses shapes that are not from nature at all. This one is mostly about form and design.

2. I think that my personal totem would be a..... well, I have no idea, but I'm going to go ahead and say an octopus. Because that would be a really awesome shape to do, and it would bring a unique element to the project. The end!


Anonymous said...
I really like this one because I like the way the eagle looks mighty tough. Their colors are so realistic.
I kind of like the colors because I like the one on the top that looks like a flower and the other on the bottom that looks like a stem.

2. I might choose an natural object. I will call it Ju-Ju. It rotates on its spot all the time and when you shoot some blue eggs into his first mouth it asks for more "Blue Stones".

Christopher Rudko

Alex Aniol Dawg said...
There's just so much detail and it reminds me of a tattoo sleeve. I love it.
I dig the color in this one a lot and I really like how it's completely nontraditional and modern. It's awesome

Im really not entirely sure what I'd like to do for this project. I'm pretty interested in ancient Mayan art and i'd like to somehow use that as my inspiration I guess? I would like to stick to bugs like a scorpion (a mayan zodiac totem animal representing challenge) or a scarab but i might want to do a turtle also. NOT SURE.

Anonymous said...

These totem poles are incredible i wish i could accomplish something this great!