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Tofino Local Profile: Christen Dokk Smith, Artist

As a “Viking carver,” Christen Dokk Smith has spent his career creating works of powerful clean lines and intricate detail, blending modern simplicity with ancient mythology. In 2012, he moved to Canada from his native Norway, hoping to learn from First Nations carvers. Today he works from the Henry Nolla Carving Shed on Chesterman Beach, where he carves artworks from wood, stone and bone.

Born in Oslo, Christen was an officer in the military before a transformative meeting with Bjarte Aarseth, a master woodcarver at the Viking Ship Museum. Christen became his apprentice for four years, and quickly learned the classical European carving styles, focusing on Medieval, Baroque, Rococo and especially Viking carving.

Since coming to Tofino, he has discovered a love for the local woods, especially yellow cedar, alder and red cedar, salvaged where possible. And he has found friends and mentors among the local First Nations, including elder Levi Martin, and carver Joe David while working alongside Feather George, the caretaker of Henry Nolla’s Carving Shed.

The Carving Shed was built by a Catalan/ Swedish carver named Henry Nolla, who came to Canada in the 1950s and  agreed  to build his shed on the McDiarmid’s property in exchange for taking care of their home. He later did the decorative adze work throughout the Inn and carved its majestic front doors. After his death, the Inn welcomed local – and now international – carvers to continue working from the shed. Today, it’s where Feather George and Christen Dokk Smith create masterful works of art that could come from nowhere else.

Christen Dokk Smith accepts commissions related to decorative carving, portrait and sculptural work. For more info, visit www.christendokksmith.com.

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