1 3/4" x 1 3/8" Sterling SIlver Oval Grizzly Bear & Mouse Woman By Jay Simeon- Dig Wee Gay T'aaw

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Jay Simeon - Dig Wee Gay T’aaw

My English name is Jay Simeon, I belong to the Haida nation through my father Eric Simeon, and to the Blackfoot nation through my mother Lenora Yellowhorn. My Haida name is Dig Wee Gay T’aaw, my Blackfoot name is Apah Gyiyo. I was born on July 27, 1976, in Fort McLeod (Alberta). My father’s family came from Kiusta on the northwest coast of Graham Island. Our ten thousand years old village is now abandoned, but we are all dreaming of the day we can return and live there for another ten thousand years... I belong to the Kaawaas branch of the Sdast’a.aas Eagle clan. My crests are Eagle, Supernatural Killer Whale, Frog, Beaver, Sculpin and Raven. These crests were bestowed on me by my grandmother Cora Simeon.
I was raised first by my mother in Alberta, and from the age of 8 on by my father in Vancouver. Since my early childhood, I have loved drawing and designing, and when I was 14, I started apprenticing with my ant (first cousin) Sharon Hitchcock. She taught me formline designing and argillite carving. I took a design course at the Vancouver Community College, and I studied advanced design with Robert Davidson at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center.
I take my inspiration from Haida masters of the past, like Charles Edenshaw, and of today, like Bill Reid, Robert Davidson, Reggie Davidson, and Jim Hart. When it comes to precious metals, I particularly admire the work of Rick Adkins, and the work of Christian white in argillite. But I also feel inspired by the work of master’s from other nations, such as Beau Dick, Wayne Alfred, or Joe David. And I also learn from my peers, artists of my own generation such as Phil Grey or Marcus Alfred. We all have things to teach to each other.
The best artists are able to work in a variety of media, it was true for Edenshaw, it is still true today. I work in wood, in precious metals, in argillite, I draw and paint on paper, leather and basketry. In wood I have carved masks, poles, bowls, panels, paddles, frontlets, helmets, rattles, raven rattles, etc. In metal I use a variety of techniques: engraving, repoussé, chasing, blackening, soldering, casting, and so on.
I am a perfectionist, always trying to discover new technics, new tools, and to push my limits; I approach every piece, even the small ones, as if it were the last one of my career and I never use the same design or composition twice. It is sometimes a problem because when a piece sells quickly or when a collector complains that a piece they want is already gone, galleries want another one “just like that” and do not like hearing me say no...
However, skills, technics and tools are not everything. Our art means nothing if it is detached from our culture, from our songs and our dances, our stories and our language. This is even more true for us urban Haida, far away from our homeland. Right now I am trying to learn some of our songs and some of our language. This is very tiring, and finding the time is difficult because of the needs of my children and the demands of my career. But it is also very exciting and very motivating, and the regular contacts with the elders teaching me fills me with energy and motivation. I am very grateful to them for their time, their patience, their knowledge and their encouragements.