Carolyn is a member, by blood, of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a registered Choctaw artist. Her work is contemporary Native American pottery and sculpture. With a slab of clay and electric kiln, she brings a modern voice to the clay, while still honoring the art and traditions of her ancestors.
Using a sgraffito technique to carve totems, spirits, and patterns into clay is an expression of her deep respect for all Native American culture, and especially her beloved Choctaw tribe. Carolyn says, “the feel of the leather hard clay as I carve it feeds my soul, but the contrast between the white clay and black slip makes my heart sing.”
So when both hands developed chronic tendinitis, she decided to take her carvings to the wall, making sculpture that brings forth an emotional connection to the story.
Inspired by her love of totem poles, she wanted to create sculpture that would both reflect her heritage and include her signature sgraffito work. And so, Totem Sticks were born.
Historically, animal totems significant to a family or clan were carved into totem poles. These were often used to tell a story, illustrate a legend, identify a clan, or document tribal history. Although totem poles are usually associated with northwestern tribes, evidence has surfaced that even Southeastern tribes used totem poles to identify clans . Totem sticks celebrate the past by bringing the carvings to the wall.
“My hope is that you will find a piece that resonates with you, perhaps one that tells your story. That would make the work complete for me.” — Carolyn Bernard Young