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Don Svanvik was born in 1958 in Alert Bay.
Don's father, Karl-Eric Svanvik came from Finland and is of Swedish descent, and his mother Alice Whonnock is Kwakwaka'wakw and from Alert Bay. Don began carving in 1984 under the guidance of Beau Dick. His earliest influence was Sam Johnson, an elder and carver who largely carved ceremonial pieces. He has also worked with Wayne Alfred, Sandy Johnson, Bruce Alfred, Harold Alfred, Doug Cranmer and Calvin Hunt. The experience of working with so many artists has given Don a unique approach approaching and understanding Kwakwaka'wakw art.