Noted carver Duane Pasco publishes art-biography

Carver Duane Pasco, on right, signs copies of his new book, “Life As Art, Duane Pasco,” at the Poulsbo Public Library June 11.             - Megan Stephenson / Herald.
Carver Duane Pasco, on right, signs copies of his new book, “Life As Art, Duane Pasco,” at the Poulsbo Public Library June 11.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald.

POULSBO — Duane Pasco calls his latest book part biography, part art.

For the last 50 or so years, Pasco has worked on bentwood boxes, masks, sculptures, totem poles, panels, canoes — just about any kind of Pacific Northwest Native-style art you can think of.

Pasco, 81, doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down any time soon. His recently founded nonprofit education center, Jayhawk Institute, published his latest book, “Life as Art, Duane Pasco,” and he is currently on a local book tour. He kicked off the tour on Tuesday at the Poulsbo Library, telling stories from his life in Alaska and Seattle to a crowd of about 50.

The book is full of stylized pictures of his artwork, many of which hang in area art galleries, paired with many stories from his remarkable life. Pasco, who is not Native, was born in Alaska and went to school in Seattle. He said he wasn’t taught anything about Native culture in school, so sometimes he would head to the Seattle Public Library to read. His fascination grew, and he began drawing and learning to carve.

By the 1960s, a slow revival of Native arts and crafts was beginning, and he began working in the U.S. and Canada as a carver.

Pasco’s wife Betty, a Suquamish elder, weaver, artist and teacher, said Duane has been teaching all his life. The idea for Jayhawk came from Duane needing a place to work on his carving and to showcase finished canoes. The idea evolved into a full learning center, to share “the value of history and respect for our elders who handed us this knowledge,” Betty said.

The Jayhawk Institute was founded in 2011. While the foundation raises money to build a physical presence for Jayhawk, the Pascos host school groups and apprentices at their home in Indianola. Duane said he is passing on his knowledge of Native culture, art and technology from the Northwest coast, from the Columbia River to southeast Alaska.

Jayhawk plans to offer instruction and learning opportunities for tool making, bentwood boxes, bowls, whistles, cordage, weaving and drums, according to the website. The Pascos also have many videos in the works, some instructional and some highlighting Pasco’s projects. Betty said they will also write and publish more books.

The Pascos are also teaming up with the Suquamish Museum to offer classes, beginning in July. Ted George, Rich Deline, Earl Hooper, Nancy D’Archangel and Grant Winther join the Pascos on the board of directors.

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