The Carver’s Life: Annotations of Carvings by John T. Williams

Annotations as told to Design Director André Mora by Rick Williams

May 5, 2011 Published in the May 2011 issue of Seattle Met

John Williams in his early 20s with one of his carvings.

John T. Williams, approximately 20 years old (see photo above). This totem pole would have most likely taken him one and a half days, carved from sugar pine. The painting is all done by John as well. He probably started early in the morning, worked through the night and finished at noon the next day. Something like this would have sold for $450.


A Elder Thunderbird with Sun Mask
The sun mask, situated below the thunderbird, is indicated by the four rays coming out of it.

B Spirit Whale
The white portion is the beginning of the spirit whale, the blue in between the white and the black is unusual, according to Rick. The black sides pointing up were attached to the pole and indicate that the whale was captured.

C Mother Bear
She is holding a human captive, in hopes of getting her cubs back. In the past, hunters took bear cubs, so this is retaliation.

D Leaping Frog
Stop, look, listen: Be aware.

E Powerful Raven
The raven is there to teach you how to look at someone—how to keep an open mind.

F Sitting Frog
Asking for peace.

G The totem’s base
The style of stand and colors were popular in the ’60s but the black, star-cut pattern on top was not like other bases. The red, blue, green, and yellow front represents an eye, saying, “Here is the peace. Can you see it?”
Filed under
Show Comments

Related Content


A Family Affair

04/10/2009 By Christopher Werner

Online exclusive

A Walk in the Park



My Seattle