Ye’eh

Height: 36 inches. Artist’s collection. Carved from Alaskan yellow cedar, with mountain goat hair, acrylic paint, fabric, and children's clothing.

All body parts are articulated, including head, eyes, and mouth.

I carved this little guy in 1984 for a video performance. Since then I’ve performed with him several times. He’s quite versatile, for he tells stories, drums and sings, and even rough-shapes a mask with an adze. The name “Ye’eh” means "grandfather" in the Gitk’san language. He is operated in the Japanese bunraku method, in which the operators’ hands are on the puppet. “Ye’eh” has had as many as three operators at one time, depending on how elaborate the performance.

Master Carver

Height: 18 inches, seated. Artist’s collection. Carved from Alaskan yellow cedar, with goat hair, acrylic paint, and children’s clothing. Articulated arms and head.

This is classed as a puppet, even though he doesn’t move from a seated position. He is operated in the bunraku method, meaning that the operators’ hands are on the puppet. The control rods for the head and arms are controlled from the rear of the body. His right arm holds an elbow adze with which he shapes the little mask in his left hand. This puppet isn’t a self portrait, but I can relate to him, inasmuch as he's an old guy carving at his work site. The bent corner boxes beside him contain paint, brushes, and carving tools. His work space has seen a lot of use; the floor is covered with chips and his bench is banged up and splattered with paint.

Quati Puppets

Height: 36 inches, on average. Carter Family Puppet Company of Seattle collection.

Carved from Alaskan yellow cedar, with horse hair, human hair, and acrylic paint; costumes of shredded cedar bark.

This set of marionettes are used by the Carter family in their masterfull traveling performance of The Tales of Queti, a series of several Makah stories recounting the misadventures of the boy Queti, a mischievous personified Mink.

Makah tribal elders supplied the stories and endorsed the Carters’ use of them. Before carving the puppets I made drawings for the elders to critique for style and character. There are a dozen puppets depicting various characters. The first public performance of The Tales of Queti was done on the Makah reservation at Neah Bay.

The Carters have been instrumental in reintroducing puppet theater of almost every ethnic type to the Northwest and raising its standard of quality. They perform regularly at the Northwest Puppet Center in Seattle.

Portfolio: puppets
Read More »

People are often surprised to learn that puppetry was an integral part of the winter ceremonies of Northwest Coast Natives. Nearly every possible form of puppets were used and every method of operating them, rod puppets, finger puppets, marionettes and Japanese style, Bun Raku – like, puppets.

Puppet performances were highly entertaining for guests and for the chiefs sponsoring them it was quite prestigious. Tsimshian chiefs kept skilled artists on retainer to create magic, which included puppetry They were called “Gitsontk”, which referred to the fact that they always worked in secret.

Ye’eh

Height: 36 inches. Artist’s collection. Carved from Alaskan yellow cedar, with mountain goat hair, acrylic paint, fabric, and children's clothing.

Master Carver

Height: 18 inches, seated. Artist’s collection. Carved from Alaskan yellow cedar, with goat hair, acrylic paint, and children’s clothing. Articulated arms and head.

Quati Puppets

Height: 36 inches, on average. Carter Family Puppet Company of Seattle collection.