Ron Russ was born in Masset on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1953. His father is the hereditary chief of the Eagle clan of Masset and his mother is a descendant of the Nisga’a people. Ron has been interested in Haida art for as long as he can remember. He would draw pictures illustrating the stories told to him by his grandparents. His grandfather showed him how to sharpen his tools and he went on to help him carve boats. He read all the books on the art and culture and studied the old pieces in books and in museum collections. He also talked with the other young carvers who were in a similar position of interest but not yet ready to take the next step.
“We would get together and talk about Haida art and culture, we’d draw a lot, then talk, and then draw some more — and so it went. At the time, we thought we were all self-taught but I see now that we took turns teaching each other.”
Ron Russ carves mostly in argillite, a black slate indigenous to Haida Gwaii. He also works in silver, gold and wood. He is a renowned jeweler, often mixing mediums such as wood, argillite and precious metals. Often he will use jewellery as a means of solving complex design problems which arise when carving argillite sculptures. His highly detailed, and large scale sculptures can take a year or more to complete. His limited production has resulted in a very small but enthusiastic audience for his work. His work has been exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull Quebec, the University of British Columbia and the Museum of Northern British Columbia in Prince Rupert.
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