Deb Bell

Tribal Name: Kwakiutl| Region: Vancouver Island

Band Affiliation:
Namgis First Nation
Tribal Affiliation:

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Artist Statement

I am primarily a fabric artist, working in traditional colours of the NorthwestCoast of black and red with buttons…….I have branched out and sew scarves; hats; purses I silk, jersey knit and silk with a variety of designs.

I use all scraps making coin purses out of the smallest pieces.


I was born in Alert Bay, BC; and I come from several large families from the Kwakwaka’wakw, Mowachat and Tlingit peoples.

My parents are Chris Bell Sr. and Florence Bell (nee Hunt). My dad’s parents were Robbie and Winnie Bell. Granny Winnie was mixed blood but status from the large Cook family, and Dadda Bells parents were Jim and Mary Bell from Mamalilikula; he was the youngest child in that family.

My mom Florence’s parents were Tommy and Emma Hunt. Grampa Tommy was from Fort Rupert and was Kwakiutl. His father was Robert Hunt, a white man from either Scotland or England who arrived in Fort Rupert a long time ago with his partner/wife Mary Ebbetts, a Tlingit noblewoman and Chilkat blanket maker from Alaska. Mary Ebbetts refused to teach her craft to the Kwakiutl and wove her blankets in seclusion.

My grampa Tommy came from this line of people. His grandfather George Hunt collaborated and worked for Franz Boaz. His father David Hunt married Abaya Smith (from Turnour Island) and they had three daughters and one son – Grampa. Grampa’s sister, Bessie, was married to Mungo Martin and they had one child David. Bessie got ill and died, but Abaya said she would help raise David Martin. Grampa’s dad, David Hunt, died when grampa was a young boy. Abaya and Mungo got together and raised David. Abaya taught herself how to weave Chilkat blankets. Mungo was prolific in his artistic practice, and saved carving for all of B.C. Abaya was always busy making things… hooked rugs, knitting…their house was a bevy of activity; my grandparents lived close to them.

My granny Winnie Bell taught us all the house hold chores, including sewing; she would set out her sewing machine in the kitchen and away to the races. Sewing, cooking, baking etc. I started with making doll clothes. I loved making doll clothes. Later on when my baby sister was born I made cute little dresses for her. In high school I used to make my own clothes, and when my son Robbie was born I started to make cloth dolls wearing button blankets. That was in 1989.

About 1990 I made my first button blanket commission. Soon after that I started to make dance aprons and wall hangings.

About 1999 I started expanding my sewing creations to include purses, more elaborate dolls….I now make usable art really, such as Ipad cases; cell phone cases, baby blankets, scarves, book covers, tea cozies . People nowadays want useful stuff.

Because I was always surrounded by art and artists, I feel that I was always inspired to be creative; so I started creating my own designs using fabric, and people really liked my work; so I started diversifying and now have a wonderful range of textile works.

Work Samples

Types of Work I Do

My Toolkit

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