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Last Autumn the Pembroke based community arts group ‘Sand Palace Arts’ approached ‘Greenlinks’ to work in partnership on a project with ‘youths at risk of dissaffection’ at Pembroke Secondary School.
Local woodcarver Robert Jakes worked with a group of eight students, first looking at images of traditional carved Totem Poles and discussing the importance of these carvings for the local community.
Robert sourced the Douglas Fir trunk from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s sawmill at Cilrhedyn, where it was sawn in half lengthwise to give two similar 16 foot poles to carve.

The group worked on initial ideas and designs depicting imagery that was important to them, the images to be carved were, an Owl, a lurcher, a football trainer kicking a football and a breaker and on the other pole, shield with a phoenix, a shield with the devil and a boat, the face of a Black Panther and an ipod.

After the initial drawings they went on to model in clay their preferred designs,
from these sculptural ideas they started work on the timber, deciding where the images were to go and marking out the designs with chalk.

At the end of each day, the larger areas were marked out for removal with the aid of the chainsaw prior to the next carving session.

Working with Mr Owen, a Technology teacher at the school, we incorporated a solar panel on the top of each pole, this connected to a movement sensor, which would light up a set of led bulbs in the eyes of the Owl and the Black Panther, in the same way a security light works.

We sanded, highlighted with woodstain,

Then coated the poles with Linseed Oil

We gathered together on the last day of the school term before Christmas to raise the Totem Poles and bolt them in their temporary positions at the ‘Greenlinks’ building, as we left that evening the eyes of the Panther lit up.

Construction work is going on to create the new ‘skills centre’ at the school, where the Poles will eventually be installed on the new entrance gates.

This project was funded by the Social Risk Fund and administered by the WCVA. - Pembroke based community arts group

Further reading, two inspiring books;
‘Totem Poles of the Pacific Northwest Coast’ by Edward Malin
‘Totem Pole’ Carving by Vickie Jensen

The National Trust Stackpole Estate has offered a huge Fir trunk to be carved with imagery relating to the estate, it’s history and rich natural diversity. Robert is very keen to work with a team of wood carvers to create a Stackpole Totem Pole, sponsorship is being sought for this project.

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