Surfite Manatee Fetish

Brian Yatsattie


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Zuni carver Brian Yatsattie comes from a family of jewelry artisans. His mother, Janta Yatsattie, was known for her petit-point jewelry, and he began his artistic career as a painter.

In 1989 Brian turned to carving because “it looked like fun.” He is well-known for his creativity in style and his standout variety of materials used in his beautiful creations.

A self-taught artist, Brian was inspired to learn carving by watching others working on their art. At the time, he wanted to try a new medium, so he picked up some stone and started carving.  Many years later Brian’s carvings are being collected globally and are much sought after by people familiar with the Zuni traditions. Brian has taught his brother and son how to carve so the family tradition will continue and is now teaching others the art of fetish carving.

This phenomenal manatee is made from a material that not everyone is familiar with – surfite – which does not come from old surfboards, but from the excess resin that spills off the boards when they are made. That resin seals a layer of fiberglass over the shaped surfboard, and in order to seal it entirely, you need a lot of resin. The excess resin drips and pools on the floor under the board. As board after board is glassed in the glassing bay of a surfboard shaper’s shop, the floor builds up in resin that can be up to six inches thick. Periodically, that resin-covered floor gets broken up into enormous slabs, and sometimes, a curious person like Brian can get ahold of this material and turn it into art!

The manatee you see here is a fine example of Brian’s carving, as no matter the material, he truly conveys the natural look and details of whatever animal he is bringing to life!

Beautiful details, skilled carving, and new and exciting materials carved by a self-taught expert craftsman…this is a phenomenal piece to add to any collection!

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