In the late 80’s Val Malesku began carving an 18kt gold bracelet with Bill. She had met Bill at least ten years prior when he was carving the Skidegate Pole in Haida Gwaii. The first project that Malesku worked on under Reid was the design for Loo Taas, Reid’s 50′ Haida Canoe. Over the years Malesku and Reid became close and she would often stay with Bill and Martine at their home while visiting Vancouver. During their time together both in Haida Gwaii and Vancouver, Val and Bill would often create together. The Frog Bracelet (pictured above) is the first bracelet she created with Bill and as Val says “he would carve some of the design when he felt good and then sit and guide me while I carved.”
Other artists who created things with Bill were often acknowledged as the maker or carver and himself as the designer. This reflects Ried’s European jewelry training. Inside of this Frog bracelet, the inscription reads, “Design – Bill Reid / Maker – Val.” The bracelet was completed in December of 1989 and has never been on the market before now.
When I look at this bracelet I see the similarities between this piece and Reid’s Silver Frog pin in which the frog’s body is defined by a series of parallel folds and ridges. These ridges are synonyms with Reid’s frogs and evident in many works from Phyllidula, 4′ cedar frog in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s collection to his small woodblock frog print, to name a few.
Throughout the Northwest Coast, frogs are closely associated with the power of transformation and are the primary spirit helpers of shamans. For this reason, frogs can often be seen emerging from the ears or mouths of creatures that have both human and animal elements. In Northwest Coast mythology the divisions between humans and animals are not clearly defined. Ancestral stories often speak of supernatural beings assuming different forms.