Born to Jim and Diane Work in Campbell River in 1975, Kwakwaka'wakw artist Clinton Work grew up learning Kwakwaka’wakw stories and preliminary Kwak’wala from Diane Matilpi.
An avid illustrator from childhood, Work began applying his artistic skills to traditional Kwakwaka’wakw form and design in the mid 1990’s. He has apprenticed and collaborated with Cree artist Phil Ashbee, helping to complete a major installation "Salmon Coming Home" at the Nanaimo Port Theatre in July 2000.
In 2007, Work began experimenting as a silversmith, a skill he learned from Saulteaux/Ojibway artist Kelvin Thompson, whose work we also have in our collection. His natural sense of design and unusual motif choices sets his work apart from what is often available.
Work’s masks attract international buyers due to his precision and finishing consistency, one of which involves lightly sanding his masks after painting them to expose the natural grain, rendering an antiqued quality. Well versed in plant technology, Work harvests, cures, prepares and weaves his own cedar bark adornments.
Work has delved into several mediums and has also restored damaged art pieces with impeccable precision. He has created a number of pieces for Copper Moon Gallery since 2004 including our logo design, numerous masks, headdresses, bentwood box designs, drum paintings, woven headbands, and custom jewelry pieces.
CLINTON WORK COLLECTION
Bear Spirit Pendant by Clinton Work
On the Pacific Northwest Coast, Bears are correlated with humans, as both rely on berries and salmon for sustenance. Bear is also considered an ancestor, and as such, are revered as a friend to man rather than a threat.
Bears weave a special connection between spawning salmon and the health of the forests they live in, as salmon are full of nitrogen which acts as a superb fertilizer for the forest. During the spawn, Bears take advantage of their opportunity to benefit from the abundant food supply by eating their favorite parts and discarding what they fancy less. In general, it is said that Bears only consume about 5% of any given salmon they pull from streams during the return, which is why Bears have been given significant credit by the scientific community, for helping to maintain the health of the forest.
To identify a bear, look for a short snout, canine teeth, small ears, claws, and a short tail. Bears are often depicted with salmon, cubs, and humans. Wolf and Bear can look quite similar on jewellery, with the wolf having a much longer snout and tail. To differentiate Bear from Sea Bear, look for fish-scales where Bear would otherwise have fur.
Cheryl Shearar Understanding Northwest Coast Art (2000)
Campbell River Museum & Archives