For decades, Louis Bouchard spent his days in a classroom at the chalkboard teaching middle school and high school students about social science and English, and later offering guidance to teens as a counselor.
Now, many years down the road, he is the student. After retiring to Sequim, Bouchard started pursuing a hobby he picked up during his first year of teaching as a shop instructor: woodcarving. What started as a way to creatively pass time has turned into a passion for learning about American Indian history.
Bouchard makes hand-carved clocks, specializing in Tlingit themes. The Tlingit - pronounced "KLIN-kit" - are an indigenous tribe of northwestern America, primarily of the southeast Alaskan coast, British Columbia and the Yukon in Canada. Tlingits in the U.S. don't have reservations. Like most Alaskan natives, they live in native villages instead.
Although most Tlingits speak English today, some Tlingits, especially elders, speak their native tongue, a complicated language with many sounds that don't exist in English. An easy Tlingit word is "gunalchéesh," which sounds like "gu-nall-chaish" and means "thank you."
The Tlingit culture is multifaceted and complex, according to Wikipedia.org. A heavy emphasis is placed on family and kinship. Wealth and economic power are important indicators of status, as are generosity and proper behavior, all signs of "good breeding" and ties to aristocracy.
Art and spirituality are incorporated in nearly all areas of Tlingit culture. Everyday objects such as spoons
and storage boxes are decorated with spiritual power and historical beliefs of the tribe.
"It's part of our heritage," Bouchard said about the Tlingit culture. "Even if you are not Indian, their history is our history."
"They have wonderful stories," he continued. "Everybody can learn something from the Tlingit."
While he doesn't have any Tlingit in his family tree, Bouchard is part Chippewa.
The mother-in-law apartment attached to Bouchard's house serves as his workshop. Tables are decorated with gauges, a drill press, wood glue, chisels and other woodworking tools. A thin layer of sawdust covers the work area and every wall is covered with clocks, tapestries and woodcarvings.
His favorite part about the whole process is taking a slab of wood and turning it into a three-dimensional piece of art.
When family members visit and spend the night in the apartment, it's not uncommon to find a pile of batteries on the dresser the next morning that have been removed from battery-operated clocks that were chiming on and off throughout the night, Bouchard chuckled.
Bouchard said he would like to sell his products but hasn't had much luck in that department yet. "I am not a good salesman," he admitted sheepishly. "I enjoy talking to people but I don't like selling things. It's not my style - I'm too honest. If something costs $10 in materials to make, I can't justify selling it for much more than $20 or $25."
Ideally, Bouchard said he would like people who are interested in purchasing American Indian art to contact him. In the meantime, carving and making clocks will remain a hobby.
"It keeps me out of mischief," Bouchard said. "My wife always knows
where I am."
His next project: learning to recreate
small-scale totem poles.
For more information,
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
For a complete company directory with contact information please click HERE.