My artwork emerges from my experiences growing up on Haida Gwaii.  I was lucky to be born into this place.  It has nurtured and nourished me.  Haida art reflects the land and the people.  For me, our ancient art form feels contemporary.  At its core, our art is storytelling, whether we tell of a time of the Supernaturals or our present day battles.  Time comes and goes, but we are still here on these islands.  The stories weave together.  

I seek to share our stories through my art.  I find my inspiration in the depth and breadth of our stories.  I visited elders as a child and I have depended on their knowledge ever since.  Learning the stories is a life long pursuit and is as much of the process for me as is the carving.  For each piece of work, I delve into the stories to ensure that I am not knowingly making a mistake in the telling.  Once I feel comfortable in the story I begin.

DSC_5229One of my earliest memories is playing in the cedar chips as my father, Guujaaw, helped Bill Reid carve.  When I was a bit older he would make me sketch and trace old box designs.  That grew into carving masks and spoons.  Eventually I apprenticed with my father on some of his major works including poles and a canoe.  As I have made my own way as an artist I have always gone to him for guidance and appreciate his depth of understanding of the art.

I have also had the honour to work with James Hart, who has become one of my most influential teachers.  He has taught me to pay attention to detail.  Every cut you make is important.  I have worked on several projects for him, including the “Reconciliation Pole” at UBC.

Many other artists have been influential in my life.  Beau Dick showed me techniques in mask carving and canoe building.  Robert Davidson taught me about formline design.  My teachers also include Tsinii Stephen Brown, with whom I worked on Haida language, Henry Geddes, Naanii Nora and Naanii Leila and Gwaaɢ̲anad who continues to guide me in all my endeavours.

Learning directly from ancestral pieces has also been a key element of my development.  It is a constant part of my practice to study the works of the old masters at home and in museums around the world.  The treasures our ancestors created encode endless insights and continue to open new pathways for me.

I have carved several monumental poles for Jasper, Gwaii Haanas, Whistler, and Old Massett and I am currently putting the finishing touches on a 33 foot canoe.  I do design, painting and screen-printing.  In collaboration with my brother Gwaai, I wrote and produced a play entirely in the Haida language.  I have worked with a team to create a series of Haida stop motion animations, with our latest winning an award at the ImagiNATIVE Film Festival.  I co-wrote the screenplay for Sɢ̲aawaay K’uuna Edge of the Knife, a feature film that won awards at VIFF, TIFF and the LEOS.  Each of these projects depends on community involvement and support which is what gives them power and significance.


© 2024 Jaalen Edenshaw
© 2024 Jaalen Edenshaw