Wooden Bowl

Tales and Treasures from the rich legacy of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Written by Amelia Fay Posted January 8, 2024

This large bowl by an unknown maker showcases the true art of bentwood vessels. The sides are made from one long piece of wood that was carefully bent into an oval shape and secured with a scarf joint and copper rivets. The bottom piece of the bowl was carved into a concave shape but retains a flat portion in the centre to ensure the bowl sits nicely without tipping. It appears as though the seam where the side panel meets the base was sealed with some type of black resin.

Although the record for this bowl is vague, the art of bentwood bowls appears to have a strong Arctic tradition. Examples from other museums have been attributed to Yup’ik in Alaska and Inuvialuit in western Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon Territory. This particular bowl was collected by an HBC employee who travelled extensively along the Mackenzie River, suggesting a potential Inuvialuit origin.

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Amelia Fay is the curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the February-March 2024 issue of Canada’s History.

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