Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“ruffling the spirit’s feathers”


As this one came together, I thought of a shaman that is taunting the owl spirit. He stands behind the owl with his wings up and out, in a motion that mimics or mocks the owl. This shaman has achieved the power to change shape and enter the spirit world, but now that he has those powers he makes fun or disrespects the owl spirit who has helped him on this journey. The owl, unlike the shaman, looks straight ahead and is completely unaware of what the shaman is doing. This idea came from those situations where people poke fun at others when their back is turned—sometimes they get caught—and there are times, like in this carving, that they don’t.

One thing I learned from this stone is that it wasn’t as soft as I first thought!

About 11 years ago a fellow had dropped this piece of stone off to me at my old shop. I began grinding it not long after, but stopped because of the dust it was kicking up. At first I thought it was talc, because it seemed to be fairly soft (at the time). After having it sit around since then in my new workshop, I finally decided to work on it again in the hopes of giving it more detail than I usually do with my pieces. When I first began to grind, I was surprised to notice that sparks were coming from the entire piece as I continued to work. I knew then that this was not talc, so the extra detailing wasn’t going to happen. I showed the piece to a friend of mine, Donald, who just so happens to work in the geological field—and he said that it looked like Olivine and that I should check this out on the Internet. The closest that I could see it being like was called Jadestein, which is in the family of Olivine. The hardness of this stone is 6.5 on the Mohs scale — and as the chart said, it is harder than the files that I use!

Given all this, I was able to shape the stone to the point that it has about the same details that I wanted — but it looked like it needed more — so I sat down and drew the stone and began to work the drawing from there to see what could be added to give it that little extra. After working through a number of ideas, I started to see the owl’s head suspended like a necklace. This works because when you look at the piece as a whole you can see the two heads, but if you block out the man’s head, you can see an owl with its wings stretched up. This turned out looking better than I had first thought but there was still something missing — and this is where I added the feathers to the chin of the owl.

—Michael Massie

Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.