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
Cunning Wolf Pendant by Clinton Work
The Kwa’wala word for Wolf is u’ligan. Wolf is the ancestor of the Dzawada’enuxw people of Gwa’yi (Kingcome Inlet) and the Haxwa’mis of Wakeman Sound. Historical accounts speak of the wolf who survived the great flood by ascending a high mountain, and began howling to see if anyone would answer. It was the Gusgimukw who answered the call and this was when wolves changed into men and became the ancestors of the Dzawada’enuxw and Haxwa’mis. Though the wolf dance was not shared for many years outside of the family, it has now been gifted to several families from other villages that now have rights to the Wolf Dance and its forty songs.
Often viewed as sly and cunning, clever Wolf is a storyteller known for valuing kinship. The social organization of wolves is very similar to both Killer Whales and Humans, as they mate for life and travel in packs. They are fierce protectors of their young, and cooperate as a team.
Abstract Wolf and Bear designs can look quite similar, so always look for a long snout, a small, elegant paw, and a long tail vs a short snout, claw and short tail seen on bear designs.
Franz Boas Indian Myths & Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America: A Translation of Franz Boas' 1895 Edition of Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas (2006)
Campbell River Museum & Archives
U'mista Cultural Centre Museum Online Resources