Our Tofino Neighbours: Robinson Cook
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It’ll be 30 years ago this spring since Robinson Cook first arrived in Tofino, and “once I got here, I couldn’t leave,” he says about living on the west coast.
A wood craftsman and carver, guests of the Wickaninnish have likely seen Robinson’s work around the Inn or enjoyed his handiwork around town. He is an integral part of our community, a regular at the local coffee shops and continuously cultivates a deep relationship with the people and places in this area.
“I am full of ideas, visions and stories to tell with my carving,” Robinson says. When he arrived in Tofino, he had done a bit of handy carpentry work, but his carving and craftsman journey really started here, inspired by the coast, the forest and the people.
After a meeting with Henry Nolla, friend of the Inn, at the Carving Shed in the early ‘90s, Robinson became a regular there, observing Henry at work and listening when the master carver would drop small notes about techniques. Robinson says he learned a lot from Henry, including the idea to make his own carving tools, though he wishes his friend were still around today to offer a few tips there, too. Over the years Robinson developed a strong and personal connection to Henry, which is why we’ve asked him to take up the task of maintaining Henry’s woodwork around the Inn buildings.
With a continued desire to learn and discover, Robinson finds inspiration in many places: ceremonies (such as sweat lodge and other cleansing ceremonies), in nature and from other artists. He is an adoptee of the Sam family of the Ahousaht band and cites his brothers—Qwaya, Qaamina and Gordon—as invaluable, constant sources of both spiritual and artistic teachings.
He is an active facilitator and teacher on the Carving on the Edge Festival team, an event which “promotes and supports the burgeoning carving culture on the coast.” And, for Robinson, the festival “has contributed to my growth as an artist, carver and person tremendously.”
Trees have greatly influenced his life, Robinson says, cedars in particular. From taking part in the War of the Woods and being arrested at Kennedy Lake in 1993 (these civil disobedience protests protected the forests and ecosystem of Clayoquot Sound), building the Big Tree boardwalk on Meares Island and working with wood as an artist, Robinson sees cedar trees as important entities in his life; it’s one of the reasons he and his partner, Mary, named their child Cedar.
Robinson, Cedar (also a natural born artist) and Mary, who is also a carver, herbalist and nurse in Tofino, live on an island next to Meares Island and Robinson has a workshop on nearby Strawberry Island. We are proud to have him in our community.