Fall Newsletter

Collections and Commissions

We had a surprisingly busy summer at the gallery, and as we head into fall we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the happenings of the past few months. Though many of us had to change our summer plans and stay closer to home, it was nice to see many of our local clients visit the gallery. And, in spite of having to adjust to this ‘new normal’, many of our international clients took the time to reach out as well. Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!

For our Fall Newsletter, we’d like to share some exciting pieces that have found their way to the gallery from a prominent Canadian collection. We’re also going to tell you about a number of beautiful custom commissions that several of our artists created for clients this year.

The George Hunter Collection of Northwest Coast Art

Canadian Photographer George Hunter 
Founder of the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation (CHPF)

Over the summer, we were contacted by the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation (CHPF), a non-profit organization based out of Ontario, whose mandate is to collect, preserve, digitize and make their archive of photographs available to all Canadians. Founded in 2001 by acclaimed Canadian photographer George Hunter, the photographs in the organization’s archive highlight the many diverse aspects of Canadian culture, history, and landscape. After Hunter’s passing in 2013, his estate donated over 100,000 prints, negatives, slides and ephemera to the Foundation, establishing the largest collection of George Hunter’s work in the world.

Annie Akpalialuk and her oldest child, Davidee, in an amautik in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, 1946. George Hunter, Photographer
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation
Photograph of a Fishing Vessel, featured on the Canadian $5 Banknote from 1972 – 1988. George Hunter, Photographer
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation


Born in Regina in 1921, George Hunter dedicated his life to capturing the beauty of the Canadian landscape and the nation’s cultural diversity. He traveled across Canada more than 100 times, documenting life throughout the nation. He was especially known for his ground-breaking aerial photography from the 1950’s, as well as his images of Canadian industry and First Nations communities.

During his travels out West, Hunter acquired a wonderful collection of pieces by notable Northwest Coast artists. Hunter visited the artists to purchase the works, and often photographed the artists during his time with them. Upon his passing in 2013, this personal collection was donated to the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation as part of the larger Hunter collection. Earlier this year, however, the CHPF decided to refocus the organization’s mandate on Canadian photography and made contact with us to assist in the deaccession of Hunter’s art collection.

Portrait Mask, c.1958 
Mungo Martin (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar
23″ H x 21″ W x 8″ D
This mask is large, and is the one photographed with Mungo Martin, below. Mungo created very few ‘oversized’ masks in his career, which makes this piece quite rare.
Mungo Martin with oversized Portrait Mask
Photographed by George Hunter
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation
A focal point of the Hunter Collection is the large-scale Portrait Mask by acclaimed Kwakwaka’wakw artist Mungo Martin, pictured above. Martin was born in 1879 in Fort Rupert, BC, and honed his carving skills under his stepfather, well-known carver Charlie James. Martin is acknowledged as one of the first traditional artists to adopt many types of Northwest Coast sculptural and painting styles. He became widely known for holding the first public Potlatch after the Canadian Government’s Potlatch ban was lifted in 1951. He is also known for his restoration and replica work at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in the late 1940’s, and for carving a 160’ tall totem pole that was raised outside of the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria in 1956.
In his lifetime, Mungo Martin passed on his knowledge of traditional designs and carving to another well-known Kwakwaka’wakw artist, his niece, Ellen Neel. Neel learned carving from both Martin and her maternal grandfather, Charlie James, and is the first known woman to have professionally carved totem poles. In the early 1950’s, with the completion of a commissioned totem pole for the Totemland Society, a promotional group for tourism in Vancouver, Neel established herself as a career Northwest Coast artist and her work quickly became highly sought-after.
Ellen Neel with Model Totem Pole
Throughout her career, she completed many large-scale totems, however she also made a name for herself with the model totem poles she created for the tourism market, like the one featured below (left). To the right is a carved and painted model pole by her grandfather, Charlie James. Both works are from the gallery’s collection.
Totemland Model Pole
Ellen Neel (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
14″ H x 7″ W x 6″ D
Eagle, Bear and Human Holding Copper
Charlie James (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar, Paint
14″ H x 8″ W x 4″ D
Hunter took this photograph of Ellen Neel carving an Eagle Panel in 1956, a piece he then acquired for his personal collection.
Ellen Neel with Eagle Panel
Photographed by George Hunter
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation
Eagle Panel, 1956
Ellen Neel (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
30″ H x 18″ W x 2″ D
First Man Mask, c.1950’s
Ellen Neel (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar
10″ H x 7 1/4″ W x 3 1/2″ D
Tsonoqua Mask, c.1950’s
Ellen Neel (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar
7″ H x 4 3/4″ W x 3 1/2″ D
Hunter also collected works by well-known artist and hereditary chief of the Gitxsan First Nation, Walter Harris. Chief Harris was born in Kispiox, British Columbia, and in 1957 became the hereditary Chief of the Fireweed Clan. He attended the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Art in 1969, where he studied under Doug Cranmer and Duane Pasco, and eventually became a carving instructor, himself.
Chief Walter Harris
Photographed by George Hunter
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation
Chief Harris’ family crest was the Killer Whale, a figure he visited many times in his art. Hunter acquired this large, elaborately carved Killer Whale panel from the artist during one of his trips to the West Coast.
Killer Whale Panel, c.1975
Chief Walter Harris (Gitxsan)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
71″ L x 37″ H x 1″ D
Finally, one other notable Northwest Coast artist whose work Hunter collected was Coast Salish carver Francis Horne Sr. This uniquely-styled Hawk Moon Mask by Horne is one of the carver’s earlier works, made when the artist was only 25 years old. He spent time as a carving instructor at the University of the Fraser Valley and in 2019, Horne was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the university.
Hawk Moon Mask, 1979
Francis Horne Sr., (Salish)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
15 3/4″ H x 13″ W x 6″ D
It’s been a unique experience working with the Canadian Heritage Photography Foundation as they deaccession these works from the George Hunter collection. It is always a pleasure to interact with such important works by artists whose contributions to the Northwest Coast world of art are unique in their significance.

Custom Commissions

Complimenting the exceptional works from the Hunter collection, the gallery also had a busy summer working with clients on a number of custom commissions by both established and up-and-coming artists. Custom commissions take on many forms – totem poles, panels, bentwood boxes, bracelets, to name a few. It’s always an exciting process to have unique works created for our clients!

In July, Perry Lafortune (Salish) was commissioned by a client to complete a 12′ totem pole for their family home. While the log for this pole is being sourced, Lafortune has taken the time to work on a 6′ totem pole for the gallery. Perry likes to keep the gallery informed on the progress of the carving, and has shared several photos with us as he’s been working away on the 6′ pole.  We hope to see this totem in the gallery before the end of the year.

There are several places to start a conversation about a commission – perhaps you are seeking to work with a particular artist, or to create a work with a specific design in mind. Maybe you’ve always dreamt of having a totem pole created for your family home, or a specially purposed bentwood box. If it’s a panel commission, what dimensions and shape work best for the location you may have in mind? Red cedar or yellow cedar? Painted or unpainted?

Blank Panels Ready for Carving

Concept drawing for Bear Family Panel.

Completed Bear Family Panel.

Doug and Don Yeomans delivering Bear Family Panel. 

Bear Family Panel Commission
Don Yeomans (Haida)
Red Cedar
46 3/4″ H x 58 3/4″W x 2″D

Yeomans was quite busy this summer on a number of projects for the gallery, including carving a smaller yellow ceder Eagle and Bear panel for a custom door commission. The client liked the modern aesthetic of cast forton, and wanted to integrate a natural element into the custom door, so Yeomans carved this high-relief yellow cedar panel that will be set as the centre of the door, surrounded by eight cast forton tiles of the same design.

Original yellow cedar Eagle and Bear Tile
Don Yeomans (Haida) (Sold)

Cast Forton Eagle and Bear Tile Ed. /50

The forton tiles will be cast as a limited edition of fifty squares. While the first eight in the series were cast for the custom door commission, the subsequent nine were cast for the gallery and assembled to create one large installation.

Eagle and Bear Panel
Don Yeomans (Haida)
Cast Forton, Ed. /50
44″ H x 44″ W

Don Yeomans did find time during his busy summer to carve this intricately designed Butterfly Panel for the gallery, featuring the beautifully undulating formline that is so quintessential of his work.

Butterfly Panel
Don Yeomans (Haida)
Red Cedar
34¼” diam x 1½” L

And, a few days before sending out this newsletter, Yeomans came in with his latest creation, a 42″ diameter red cedar panel of a Killer Whale based on a sketch he’d provided for us.

Artist’s Sketch of the Killer Whale Panel

Killer Whale Panel
Don Yeomans (Haida)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
42″ diam x 2″ D

Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw) also took on a panel commission for a gallery client this summer who envisioned a work featuring a bird engulfed in the boughs of a cedar tree. After a few draft sketches, the client and artist landed on a concept that spoke to the client’s vision. The result was a deeply carved and sculpted panel featuring a few touches of copper inlay for accent.

Initial concept drawing for custom panel commission by Rande Cook. The design evolved into the Eagle Panel below. 

Progress photo of the carved panel in
Rande Cook’s studio. 

Eagle Panel Commission
Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar
36″ diam x 2 1/2″ D

Sometimes these works are in the gallery so briefly! We were only able to get a quick snapshot of this stunning panel on our phones before it was whisked away to its new home!

We were so struck by Rande’s creation, however, that we commissioned a similarly styled panel for the gallery, which Cook delivered later in the summer.

Eagle Panel
Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red Cedar, Copper
36” diam x 2½” D

Jim Charlie (Salish) is another artist we often recommend for commissioned pieces, and he created a number of beautiful works for gallery clients this summer, including this Raven, Wolf, and Moon triptych.

Concept drawing of Wolf, Raven and Moon Triptych

by Jim Charlie (Salish).

Wolf, Raven and Moon Triptych
Jim Charlie (Salish)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
36″ H x 72″ W

Jim is a great artist to work with as he creates pieces in all scales – smaller works, like this charming Raven Panel…

Raven Panel
Jim Charlie (Salish)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
42½” W x 22½” H x 1¾” D

…as well as works of a much larger scale, like this Thunderbird and Killer Whales panel.

Thunderbird and Killer Whales
Jim Charlie (Salish)
Red Cedar, Acrylic
59 1/2″ H x 56″ W x 2″ D

Another artist we worked with this summer on a commissioned work was Sage Nowak (Tahltan/Vuntut Gwitchin). Nowak was the recipient of the YVR Art Foundation Emerging Artist Scholarship in 2018 and 2020 and is an exciting young artist with a style that is uniquely his own. Sage carved this enchanting Raven Transforming bentwood box for a client who enjoys supporting up-and-coming artists in their creative endeavors.

The client was so taken by Sage’s creation that he has given Nowak a second sculptural project. Sage is also working on a panel for the gallery and we’re very excited to see what he comes up with!

Concept drawing for a Wolf sculpture by Sage Nowak. 

Sketch for a 36″ Red Cedar Panel by Sage Nowak. 

Ts’msyen (Tsimshian) artist Phil Gray’s work is always in high demand, and this intricate, multi-figured talking stick commission is an exceptional example of his skills as a designer and carver. Prior to carving, Gray revisited his original sketch to make a few adjustments – the wings of the Raven tucked alongside the bird, rather than extended, and the Killer Whale reoriented to face forward, rather than back. As artists translate their designs from paper to wood, they will sometimes reconsider certain aspects of their original ideas, and the end product is always stunning.

Raven, Killerwhale, Eagle and Wolf Talking Stick
Phil Gray (Ts’msyen)
Yellow Cedar
4 1/2″ diam x 72″ H

Talking Sticks can be quite sculptural and this yellow cedar work by Doug Horne (Salish) is another great example of a free-standing, multifigured piece.

Thunderbird Talking Stick
Doug Horne (Salish)
Yellow Cedar
4’2″ H x 7″ W x 2½” D

A past commissioned work recently came into the gallery from a Vancouver-based collector who had worked with Robert Davidson in 2003 to create this classically beautiful Eagle Pendant. Davidson began the commission with a rough drawing on paper, which the client kept through the years, and translated the elegant design onto the 22kt yellow gold medallion-like pendant.

Original drawing of the Eagle Pendant that Robert Davidson carved as a commissioned work for a Vancouver-based collector. 

Eagle Pendant
Robert Davidson (Haida)
Carved and Chased 22kt Yellow Gold
2″ diam

Finally, this summer saw the long-awaited completion of a 22′ totem pole by Robert Davidson (Haida). The conversation that spurred the creation of this totem pole took place in 2017. Such monumental works, of course, take a considerable amount of time to complete, and the final coats of paint went onto the totem pole this summer.

Final Concept Drawings for 22′ Totem Pole by Robert Davidson

The finishing touch to the pole commission was the fabrication of a custom metal base and mounting system that was attached just last week. A custom crate has been built around the totem pole for shipping to its final destination!

Robert Davidson Completed Totem Pole, October 2020

Other New and Notable Works

In addition to the incredible commissions our artists created this summer, we also acquired a few other treasures that we wanted to highlight! 

Moy Sutherland (Nuu chah nulth) is known for his intricately carved paddles, but he also creates stunning, large-scale works like this large, whimsical Pook-mis Mask.

Pook-mis Mask (Large Format)
Moy Sutherland (Nuu-chah-nulth)
Red Cedar, Acrylic, Horsehair, Wolf Fur
30″ H x 18″ W x 16″ D

In September, Bradley Hunt brought in this charming panel featuring Eagle, Raven, Frog, and Killer Whale.

The Meeting Place
Bradley Hunt (Heiltsuk)
Red Cedar
39″ H x 42 ” W x 1 1/2″ D
We received this sculptural bronze work from Luke Marston (Salish). This cast edition of 12 is a portion of Marston’s bronze installation in Stanley Park which stands at the site of the artist’s family’s ancestral village site X̲wáýx̲way and commemorates the history of his ancestors, Portuguese Joe and his first and second Salish wives, Khaltinaht and Kwatleemaat. Marston is the great-great-grandson of Portuguese Joe and Kwatleemaat.

Shore to Shore Bronze
Luke Marston (Salish)
33¾” H x 13½” W x 3½” D

We’ve also received a number of wonderfully unique Tlingit baskets of various sizes.

Tlingit Basket
Artist Unknown (Tlingit)
Spruce Root
8½” diam x 7″ H

Polychrome Tlingit Basket
Artist Unknown (Tlingit)
Spruce Root
7¼” diam x 5¾” H

Tlingit Basket
Artist Unknown (Tlingit)
Spruce Root
3″ diam x 3″ H

Tlingit Rattle Top Basket
Artist Unknown (Tlingit)
Spruce Root
4¼” diam x 3″ H

In other gallery news…

With the popularity of our online shopping feature for our jewelry, we’ve decided we’re going to be updating our website in the next month to make more of our works available through our e-commerce platform. Of course, we are still always available in the gallery seven days a week to answer phones and emails, and the doors are open with physical distancing protocols in place for those who are able to visit in person.

This will be our last newsletter of the year before our Holiday Newsletter series begins the first week of December. Until then, be sure to visit the website as we update regularly, and follow us on social media for updates and new works in the gallery!

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