Retired hatchery worker goes back to roots

Lambert Goldsmith carves his people’s myths and history as well as his own experiences.

Lambert Goldsmith carves his people’s myths and history as well as his own experiences.

The Duncan man runs a stand near the old mound on Government Street where he sells his carvings of Cowichan First Nation totems and masks, crafts and blankets, having rediscovered his childhood interest in carving after retirement.

“I took early retirement so I could get back into carving,” said Goldsmith, who retired in 2012 after over 30 years of working in the salmon hatchery on Boys Road.

Goldsmith, 63, first began carving at eight years old, taught by his father Raymond, who had been taught by an older relative. On days when his father was busy working as a logger, he would tell Lambert to go learn from renowned local carver Simon Charlie who lived a few doors down.

“Simon Charlie would go out of his way every day to make sure we had something to do. He’d literally shape these out for us and all we had to do is put the design in,” Goldsmith said, adding that he’d then go and sell his carvings for pocket money.

Charlie also told them founding myths of the Cowichan nation, something Goldsmith depicts, for example, in his Thunderbird totem pole.

“The people at the bottom here, they’re waiting for the salmon to return but they never returned, they migrated. So what the people did is went all the way downstream to see what the problem was,” Goldsmith explained.

“The people ended up all the way down in Cowichan Bay and when they got to Cowichan Bay there was this killer whale just eating them and preventing them from coming up. So they — I don’t know if it was a shaman — prayed to Thunderbird to come take the killer whale away. He’s the only one powerful enough to pick up a killer whale. So Thunderbird came and picked up the killer whale and dropped it. Over by those mountains is where it’s supposed to be. When Thunderbird removed the killer whale, the people got their salmon back.”

Goldsmith’s big future plan includes doing a 15-foot Thunderbird totem pole. He’s currently inquiring about where he can display it when it’s complete.

“This is going to be like my model totem pole,” he explained of the smaller carving.

Goldsmith uses cedar, yellow cedar, white pine and alder to carve, obtaining his wood from several sources, including a friend for whom he carved a walking stick in return for good pieces of cedar wood, donations and lumberyards. Goldsmith shapes the wood with a carving knife and adze, or power saw for larger pieces then knifes and chisels in details.

“I carve it, shape it, sand it, then paint it,” he said.

Another piece shows a mother bear feeding salmon to her cub, while another, the Moon Mask (at a price of $1,200), depicts the moon surrounded by a male and female salmon, with abalone shells as eyes and stars.

“The reason I always put them together is because it’s known from the old people that anytime there’s a full moon and a high tide the salmon will come up the river,” said Goldsmith.

Then there are carvings based on personal experience such as a small grey mask called Lightning Shadow representing a spirit that comes out during lightning storms that Goldsmith and his friends were warned about by his grandfather. They saw it themselves one day during a lightning storm — a shadowy grey figure that ran between two trees.

Pieces sell from $30 and up into the hundreds and thousands. Some carvings take months to make, while others may take only several days. Goldsmith spends weekday afternoons at his spot on Government Street and weekends taking part in the Songhees First Nation market outside the B.C. legislature in Victoria.

Being artistic runs in Goldsmith’s family, who all love the work he does. His wife Phyllis and daughter Caroline also make dreamcatchers for him to sell at his stand, and his sister Kathy knits Cowichan sweaters and winterwear for him to sell during the colder months. His daughter Talia has also worked with him painting his carvings and now lives in London, Ont. where her work has been displayed locally and featured on the news.

Talia said she has great pride in her father and what he does.

“He has a beautiful, well-established style,” Talia said. “He’s such a huge inspiration to me.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The bus is free to ride on Oct. 24 so voters can get to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial election. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Free transit on Election Day in Cowichan

all day and on all regular routes

Painters Jim Tulip, Doug Mackenzie and Gary Henslowe were painting the exterior of the Duncan Butcher Shop and Apple Press printing shop, located between the Trans Canada Highway and Whistler Street, on Oct. 8 as part of neighbourhood painting project. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan’s Whistler Street sees a fresh lick of paint in opioid battle

Group wants to help clean up community, one street at a time

Dinner shows in the Playbill Dining Room are keeping the Chemainus Theatre going during the pandemic. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Dinner events satisfying for the Chemainus Theatre and patrons

Small groups enjoy entertainment and the food in the Playbill Dining Room

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, left, joined Rob Douglas, right, NDP candidate for the Cowichan Valley in the upcoming provincial election, on a tour to meet people in Lake Cowichan on Oct. 16 and discuss local issues. (Robert Barron/Citizen) Douglas’s campaign continued to pull out all the stops with a visit on Sunday from Premier John Horgan for some spearfishing in Duncan. (Submitted)
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visits Lake Cowichan

Rob Douglas, NDP’s candidate for Cowichan Valley, joins him

Duncan-based author Jennifer Manuel took home the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her first novel, The Heaviness of Things that Float, at the 33rd Annual BC Book Prizes. She will be part of an online reading session on Oct. 22, 2020, featuring Cowichan Valley writers. (Submitted photo)
Cowichan Valley authors to be featured in online readings Oct. 22

The Cowichan Valley Writers Spotlight will feature readings by eight area writers

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read