My art gives my life purpose; my art is my life. I am a member of the Haida Nation Eagles. My clan is the Tsiij git’anee. My great grandmother was Susan Smith. My grandmother, who passed away when my mother was only a few months old, is Maria Smith. My mother is Freda Courtney, née Jones.
In 2000 I started sculpting miniatures in clay. Although I have never had any formal training of any kind, sculpting portraits seemed to come naturally to me. Creating my little characters gave me an opportunity to not just tell but the Haida culture, but also a way to show the culture. I was fascinated at the reaction to my work. I worked on expressions using art books and by watching people. I used photos of people from the coast to create my characters and sometimes someone would come along and say, “She reminds me of my grandmother.” I believe it is my love for people that gave me this ability to pick up character and sculpt these little people. And also my love for sharing life experiences with others. I added more and more detail to my little people including small simple masks, paddles, and rattles. People started asking me to carve them bigger pieces. This was the beginning of my carving career. After carving for two years on my own I found out about the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art and knew it was where I was suppose to be. I applied and was accepted into the course.
I have just completed my first year. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work under world-renowned carvers Dempsey Bob, Stan Bevan, and Ken McNeil. I am looking forward to my second year in the course and furthering my skills as a Haida Artist. This year I was presented with the Mature Student Award and the Freda Diesing Award.
My favourite pieces to carve are traditional portrait masks; I have also carved rattles, miniature canoes, feast bowls, etc. My artwork has sold nationally and internationally. As a Haida artist I try to represent my people and the culture in a respectful way. I have and will continue to bring out environmental and social issues through my work. This gives my art purpose. I am very grateful for the gifts I have been given.
Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, 2010.
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