Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“great grandmother’s comb”


In every culture and country, the passing within the family of an heirloom - whether a piece of jewellery, photographs, or any of the many other personal things that are of importance, or perhaps, of fond memory to the family, are passed down from one generation to another. The intrinsic meaning of the object(s) being passed down can be in memory of a particular person, an accomplishment, or something very precious.

Whatever the reason for the passing on of something, the person receiving the ‘gift’ usually holds onto that gift with honour, respect, and the feeling of receiving something of great value, even if the object does not have great monetary value. In some cultures the objects that are passed down are amulets, tools, and things like the simple pleasures of a comb. For myself, I have an Ulu my grandmother used that my grandfather had made for her. For me, it is something I have treasured - and is something I will pass on to one of my own kids.

My idea here was to have a woman sitting alone in her home. Her husband sleeps peacefully after a long day of work. She sits and thinks of the wonderful news that she has just received…she is to become a grandmother! Her oldest daughter has told her today that she is expecting, and the baby is due in the spring.

After she had finished combing her long flowing hair, she paused. Loosely gripping the comb, she remembers her mother’s story of the comb she is now holding. This comb was the one that her grandmother had given to her mother when she was then expecting her first child’…who is the woman now holding the comb.

It was her great-grandmother’s wish that the comb be passed onto the first child born. So, in keeping with her great-grandmother’s wishes, she smiles and thinks of the passage of the comb through her family - and how it makes her so happy to have something that has been used for so many years - and how it helps keep a family story alive.

—Michael Massie

Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.