What was the inspiration for your design?
Susan and Kelly created this design for a public art call searching for new designs for the City of Vancouver storm sewer and manhole covers. They focused on their earliest memories of nature, remembering the metamorphoses or life cycle of the frog. The imagery for ‘Memory’ depicts the metamorphosis of a frog … with eggs in the centre, spinning out into tadpoles and then turning into frogs. “Water, being the essence of life”, this design is intended to give the feel of “bursts of complete life” using the entire surface of the artwork to show that all life stems from water … fluid, flowing, designs that relate to water. Interpreted through Coast Salish First Nations’ teachings, the circular format of this design also represents the “circle of life” and the fact that all life, in one way or another, is somehow connected. The imagery also illustrates the flow of energy, as the frogs leap outwards.
What type of training (formal and/or informal) have you had?
Most of the training that I have had has been “hands-on” learning from the various artisans and craftspeople that I have worked with over the years. I began by taking a Native Jewellery Course at Vancouver Community College in 1981, while I was on maternity leave following the birth of my son Thomas.
The course turned out to be very exciting. I learned the basics in jewellery making … cutting metal (silver), soldering, polishing, making silver wire, etc. The only thing with this course is that I had to create my own designs and imagery for the various pieces that I made (i.e. earrings, bracelets, rings).
In 1981, native art “period” strongly consisted of the northern art style (whether it be jewellery, prints, totems, etc.). Salish art was not even in the picture! Shamelessly, being Salish myself, I did not even know my own art form at the time. So, during my Native Jewellery Course I imitated the northern art style … something that I was very familiar with and loved very much but really did not understand. Obviously, I didn’t do justice to the northern art form.
Prior to the end of the course, my husband, Jeff, a non-native, asked me if I had my own art form knowing that I was Salish. Honestly, I didn’t know! My god, at this time I was 28 years old. I knew I was Salish but I never saw the art of the Salish peoples. Always, northern art was in the forefront … in galleries, totems being erected everywhere including Salish territory, etc.
The excitement of wanting to know more about my Salish people, took Jeff and I to the Vancouver Public Library. Unfortunately, there was very little … almost nothing … that we could find on Salish art with the exception of a few Salish legends. Everything, book wise, pretty well documented the northern art and culture of the northern peoples of British Columbia.
Fortunately, during my initial research on Salish art in the very beginning, my aunt, Della (nee Charles), was married to Michael Kew. Michael Kew, my uncle through marriage, at that time, was the Professor at UBC who specialized in Salish Art and Culture. Everything he had on slides that pertained to the Salish peoples, I had duplicated (spindle whorls, houseposts, tools, etc). I also contacted other museums (Burke Museum, Museum of Civilization, Museum of Natural History, etc.) and had them send me photographs/slides of whatever they had on Salish as well. This was the start of my re-creation of Salish design on jewellery.
Immediately after the jewellery course, I went back to work and continued making native jewellery in the evenings as a hobby. Eventually I started selling my pieces to various native galleries within Vancouver. Over time, the demand for my jewellery grew and no longer was jewellery making just a hobby anymore but it became a full time job … over and above my regular day job.
To see more of Susan's work visit her website at susanpoint.com
Contact Dianne Karg Baron firstname.lastname@example.org
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