Meet Andrew Mellish, or more commonly known in the area as “Wood Chip.” A wood carver with more than 10 years of experience under his belt, he is originally from the Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay and has been living in Vancouver for over 14 years. Now a street artist, Wood Chip told us that “having a gallery was a great experience but being a street artist and being able to expose my art to everyone is what I like to do.”
Wood Chip’s intricate creations showcase his mastery of the art and they often pique the interest of passersby. He is incredibly skillful, and watching him work is a true spectacle. On this day, Wood Chip carved his family´s crest – a double headed sea serpent. “It is usually carved on a canoe and the stories say that your canoe will take you anywhere you want to go with one paddle,” he explained, adding that these kinds of carvings are usually hung above the entrance of houses. It is believed that one head of the serpents would devour the enemy and absorb bad vibes, while the other one would spit the remains out to keep the body clean.
Not only does Wood Chip perform with impressive skill, he is also tremendously passionate about his art and takes the opportunity to explain the process of his work to anyone who is interested. He describes what each tool is for, and takes particular interest in one of them. “When I was learning to carve, I sharpened this tool so much that only by dropping it, I was cut to the bone,” he recalled. Artists like Wood Chip are an integral part of our community as they serve as a means of showcasing and preserving First Nations culture.
If you’re interested in purchasing a piece of First Nations’ art or learning more about it, head on down to Water Street where you’ll find Wood Chip in action almost every day.