Bill Reid carving Skidegate Pole 1976. Photo: Martine Reid.
Born on January 12, 1920 in Victoria, BC, Bill Reid was a renowned Haida artist. With Haida and German/Scottish roots, he started out studying classic European jewelry making at Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto. When his father, William Ronald Reid, Sr. died, he went with his mother, Sophie Gladstone Reid, to the Haida village where she was born. There he met his grandfather, Charles Gladstone, a Haida artist. Gladstone was making gold carved bracelets with tools that he inherited from Charles Edenshaw (Gladstone’s uncle) who is also a well-known Haida artist. Bill Reid said that moment “changed the way he saw the world.”
Wolf pendant, 1976
Bill had Haida art in his blood. Charles Gladstone then became Bill’s art and culture mentor. After that, Bill Reid dedicated himself to becoming a master carver, and to reclaim his Haida heritage. Perfecting the craft of Haida imagery and learning the stories and traditions of the Haida people, Bill Reid began to redefine the fine art gallery walls around the world.
Raven brooch, 1962
Much like Bill Reid’s own personal journey to rediscover his heritage and place importance on his Haida culture, language and art, the fine art world soon sought out the masterfully crafted sculptures and beautiful paintings that he created. From Paris to New York, Bill Reid was commissioned to create and represent Haida art. Bill Reid’s dream to bring his culturally significant art from Haida Gwaii into mainstream art became reality.
The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, The Jade Canoe at Vancouver International Airport
With his professional experience as a CBC reporter, he was instrumental in the re-packaging of First Nations artistic products. Bringing trinkets from the basements of dusty museums to the fine art galleries of the world, Bill Reid redefined the art world to include art from Canada’s First Nations history.
The Raven and the First Men, Museum of Anthropology, UBC
To this day, Bill Reid’s Jade Canoe greets every international traveller arriving to the Vancouver International Airport. He has imprinted Haida culture and art into the minds of people around the world as well as the walls of fine art galleries. In this way, we can see the impact he had on redefining and contributing Haida art to the world. His impact is far reaching. From the Canadian 20 dollar bill and fine jewelry to paintings and sculptures, Bill Reid’s Haida art can be seen all over the world.