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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hudson Museum #2: Paddles

Scattered among various exhibit cases at the Hudson Museum of Anthropology (see previous post for a brief introduction) is a nice collection of canoe paddles.

A Shipibo canoe paddle (c.1940)  from the Ucayali region of the central Peruvian Amazon. Used with a dugout canoe, of course. (All photos are clickable for a larger image.)

Another paddle from the Amazon, c. 1950.


A Tlingit paddle, c. 1880. If anyone can make out the design motif on this, please post to the Comments.


Three paddles from Maine, probably all Wabanaki and probably all carved with crooked knives. The top one must have been well-loved: note how it was mended with metal straps. The middle and bottom are long stern paddles.


The same three paddles as the previous photo. Interesting segmented extended grip on the longest one.

7 comments:

  1. Not sure if this is the appropriate place for a question but it is something that concerns me. I am attempting the build of a Bronze Age boat for which I am carving the figurehead and tail.

    The problem is the hull in that it should be a logboat base with sewn on upper planks. The sewn on planks I could manage but probably not the orginal hollowing out of the log. Thre are alternatives such as making a base similar to a plywood pirogue such as in the Applegate Workshops North-West canoe reconstructions.
    http://www.applegateboatworks.com/coastal.html

    However, the opportunity has come up to buy two African dugouts, one of which could serve well as my base hull. The question is, is it right to take another's craftsmanship and adapt it as though it were nothing but a raw material?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Edwin,
    I expect you'd get more substantial input on this question from WoodenBoat Forum, but I'll take a shot at it.
    In my opinion, you'd be perfectly justified in doing as you suggest, as long as you're upfront about it, e.g., "I built the boat to my own design, basing it on an existing dugout hull built by someone else."
    My rationale:
    1. The dugout builder most likely had no expectation that his product would be viewed as some kind of inviolable art object. Most likely he sold it (for a profit, one hopes), with the understanding that its owner was free to use it however s/he wished.
    2. There's a long established history of owners modifying boats, and boat designs, to suit their own needs. Just about every quahogger in existence builds his own doghouse on top of a mass produced skiff of some sort. There are endless examples of sailboats being converted to power cruisers and vice versa. Merrimac become Alabama. And on and on... Many folks who buy boat plans off-the-shelf make some changes to the design during construction, and while the designer may complain that the builder compromised the virtues of the design, I've never heard of a designer asserting that the builder had no legal or moral right to do it.
    3. According to U.S. copyright law, which covers boat design: the copyright applies to the intellectual work, not the physical work. i.e., the boat design, per se, is protected by copyright, but the boat itself. Just as you can buy a book and then burn it, or use it as a doorstop, so too can you use any boat you buy in any way you wish.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oops, typo in my last comment. The final paragraph, point #3, should read:
    According to U.S. copyright law, which covers boat design: the copyright applies to the intellectual work, not the physical work. i.e., the boat design, per se, is protected by copyright, but NOT the boat itself. Just as you can buy a book and then burn it, or use it as a doorstop, so too can you use any boat you buy in any way you wish.

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  4. The design on the Tlingit paddle looks like it might be a sea wolf (orca whale). The head is near the tip of the paddle, with the dorsal fin pointed up the blade toward the shaft. The fin has a secondary eye at its base (not uncommon to see in these designs).

    Great photos of these paddles; thank you for posting them!

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  5. Thanks Oceaneer. Even with your description, I still don't see the whale there, but I guess that reflects one of the beauties of much indigenous art -- a mastery of abstraction that European artists had to learn from before they broke away from the literal bounds of their own artistic heritage.

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  6. I found a Shipibo canoe war paddle at a thrift store and bought it for 4.50. It looks exactly like yours. The wood on the blade and handle seem to be dyed with something as it is carved from one piece. A neighbor who is a doctor said it may be dyed with blood. Is that possible? The blade is very thin yet strong, do you know what kind of wood they used? Do you know the value of such an item? Thanks Jim

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  7. Anonymous - sounds like you scored a fine deal. The use of blood (not necessarily human, of course) as a colorant wouldn't surprise me -- many cultures have done that. Sorry that I can't offer anything in answer to your questions.

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