Joanne Nelson

Region: Vancouver Coast & Mountains

Band Affiliation:
Lax Kw'alaams

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Artist Statement

I love to engrave jewelry! I love the whole process of creating from imagining, drawing, engraving, polishing and finishing. Sometimes a piece of silver will sit ready on the block for a few days while I envision what it will be. Then, the creative spark is lit and i MUST create it.


Joanne Nelson is Tsimshian from Lax Kw’alaams and was born and raised in Port Edward and Prince Rupert, BC in northern British Columbia. She holds the Killer Whale (gispudwada) as her clan. Joanne has always had an interest in traditional art forms and grew up surrounded by wonderful works of art. She has dedicated herself to the study of Tsimshian arts and has observed many artists, particularly engravers for many years. Her love of First Nations art inspired her to begin her own journey as a jewelry engraver. Under the guidance of her partner and teacher, Kwakwaka’wakw jewelry artist Rory Dawson, she has developed her own style of clean lines and feminine detail. Joanne credits her mother (Della Nelson nee Ross of Lax Kw’alaams, Killer Whale clan) and father (Charlie Nelson of Kitsumkalum, Raven Clan) for instilling cultural pride and work ethic to her from a young age.

“I work mainly in the silver medium, however, I also engrave copper, brass, steel and gold. I mainly design from a Tsimshian perspective, however, I also use alot of floral imagery along with delicate designs such as butterflies and flowers. My traditional works are in the Tsimshian style, however, I do work with non-traditional and contemporary art styles.My interest in engraving arts began many years ago here in Vancouver, BC when I befriended some engravers. I would watch them work and be fascinated by the process. I took up silversmithing and fell in love with the silver medium.My mentor is my partner, Rory Dawson, Kwakwaka’wakw jewelry artist. I also enjoy learning from the works of other Tsimshian artists as well as Tsimshian art that is in museums. The most important aspect of my work is to create objects of beauty while respecting traditional forms. I am greatly inspired by nature, seasons, animals, beauty and culture!”

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