N.W.T. students carve soapstone loons with help from Fort McPherson artist

Waylon Snowshoe, who is from Fort McPherson, N.W.T., spent time in his home community and Aklavik this past month to lead carving workshops for high school students.

Waylon Snowshoe hopes lessons of patience and perseverance pay off

Waylon Snowshoe operates a band saw during a soapstone carving workshop he put on for high school students in the N.W.T. (Submitted by Waylon Snowshoe)

An artist from Fort McPherson, N.W.T. says carving soapstone sculptures helped him deal with anxiety — and now he's passing along what he's learned to young people. 

Waylon Snowshoe, who lives in Yukon now, was in Fort McPherson and Aklavik this past month leading carving workshops for high school students. 

"I think a lot of kids fell in love with their art," Snowshoe told the host of CBC's Northwind, Wanda McLeod. "That's kind of my vision, to show kids they can achieve something." 

Snowshoe chose to have the young artists carve sculptures of loons.

Taylor Jerome-Alexie, from Fort McPherson, works on a soapstone carving of a loon. (Submitted by Waylon Snowshoe)

"I think it's such a peaceful animal. And you learn about the noises [they make] and the Indigenous tales of the loons and how they got their colours." 

At the start of the workshops, Snowshoe said some students doubted their abilities to turn the stone into an animal  — but that's where words of encouragement came in.

Snowshoe said young people learned to be patient, to take small steps toward their goals, and to take breaks when they became frustrated. He hopes those skills will help them overcome adversity as they continue to grow. 

The origin story

Snowshoe said he started carving about eight years ago, after a move south. At the time, he said, he was lonely and learning the craft helped him stay busy and focused. 

"I kind of fell in love with it," said Showshoe, adding he made a commitment to himself early on that some day, he'd carve stone full time. He reached that goal about two years ago. 

Snowshoe speaks to a classroom full of highschool students in Aklavik, N.W.T. (Submitted by Waylon Snowshoe)

"It made me feel good inside, achieving something, challenging the stone." 

Leading workshops and sharing those skills with young people is also a source of joy for Snowshoe. 

"Seeing those kids so happy can really, it makes me happy too."

A glass case containing some of the finished sculptures that students made. (Submitted by Waylon Snowshoe)

Written by Liny Lamberink, based on an interview by Wanda McLeod