Brian Schuch

Much like the varied terrain in which Brian sources his materials from, each tool he makes is unique. The traditional technique of flintknapping dates back almost two million years ago when early humans created stone tools.

Brian utilizes this ancient technique with a few modern additions to produce stone knives, arrowheads and spears.

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Alaska solidified his desire to become an artist. A friend in Juneau placed a few of Brian’s knives in his Juneau store and sold all of them almost immediately. Brian decided to move to Juneau and experience Alaska. Upon arrival he met a local artist and traveled around the state together showcasing their work. This event showed Brian that making and selling his unique works of art could be sustainable.

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Education and teaching

“There’s a lot of people who you just go and meet them and hang out and do some skill shares with them and trade, maybe pay them a little bit of money to share specific things.

Or start doing skills trades, where you learn some of there specialties and teach them some of your specialties.”

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Traveling across the country, he learned from various individuals and traded his own knowledge for new skills.

In New York, Brian attended the Hawk Circle Earth Mentoring Institute. The Institute was founded by Ricardo Sierra and Trista Haggerty as an outdoor education and mentoring facility.

From there he’s gone on to teach various workshops and retreats around the country and share the knowledge he’s learned about the land with others.

Flintknapping was born out of the intrinsic practicality of living off the land. His process begins by sourcing his materials from locations throughout the state. Though he gathers a few more exotic materials from out of state, a large portion of his materials are found in Alaska.

Caribou bones and antlers used for handles are acquired during yearly hunting trips and sharp stone like obsidian is gathered during long hiking trips in the mountains.

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The process of flintknapping

After sourcing his materials, Brian then begins the labor intensive process of knapping. He first uses large caribou bone, striking the large piece of obsidian into a more manageable size and shape. Next, he uses antler and a copper tipped pressure-flaker to methodically remove pieces, slowly creating a shape that resembles a traditional knife. The process is long, tedious and labor intensive.

One wrong strike could send a pressure wave indirectly through the stone at an incorrect angle, shattering the entire piece. Brian literally puts blood and sweat into his work. Although he uses a glove occasionally, for the most part his hands are exposed to allow for more precise work, contributing to the risk of injury from the sharpest material on earth, obsidian.

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Brian demonstrates a pump drill. Video courtesy of Brian Schuch.

Learning from the land

Following the traditional techniques for making tools and knives requires a profound understanding and appreciation for the land, knowledge Brian has acquired during his travels and experiences. Especially in Alaska, he’s embraced the traditional practices of the first communities in the state.

“You know the rawness of Alaska, the rawness in the beauty and the rawness in the experiences. If I were to boil down what’s kind of opened my eyes a little bit and really kept me here. I feel like it impacts and affects people and their mentality too.”

Brian recently accepted a teaching position at the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in the fabrication lab. There, he works with Alaska youth utilizing his traditional skills background, to create dynamic projects.

Through his experience and connection to the land, Brian has encouraged respect and sustainability in Alaskan communities and continues to share his knowledge with those around him. With his full-time position at the CITC, he’s moved away from production quantity knapping and now focuses on high end specialty pieces.

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