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Haisla artist carves gold in new Vancouver art exhibition

Lyle Wilson's new exhibition at the Coastal Peoples Gallery in Vancouver features gold jewellery that he carved over four years.

It took Lyle Wilson four years to create the gold jewellery featured at the Coastal Peoples Gallery

Qolun (Beaver) Bracelet is 18 karat yellow gold, carved and engraved by Lyle Wilson. (Lyle Wilson)

It took Lyle Wilson a bit of time before he got comfortable working with gold to create his modern take on traditional Haisla artwork.

"When you first start [using gold], you're aware of the general history and how valuable it is. You can get kind of intimidated by it," he told host Sheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest.

"But after a while it becomes just like any metal ... the value that comes into it is actually the work you put into it," he said.

Wilson is a longtime celebrated Haisla artist. He's one of UBC's Museum of Anthropology's carvers in residence, and his carved eagle mask is featured prominently at the university's law school.

Sea Monster Hat Pendant, 18K yellow gold, abalone shell, repousse, chased, engraved, and textured: 1.25 x 1.25 x 0.5” (Lyle Wilson)

And although he's now working with gold and metals, he still considers himself a carver.

"The thing that drives me the most is the process of carving, and I've applied that to my jewellery technique," said Wilson.

"It's no longer just engraving, its actually carving and adding volume."

The golden Orca Chief Pendant is18 Yellow gold, Abalone shell, Mastodon ivory Repousse, Chased, Engraved, Textured: 2.5 x 1.75” (Lyle Wilson)

Wilson's works are now a featured exhibition at the Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery in Vancouver, running until Dec. 18. The art on display took him four years to create.

One of his favourite pieces is the skate fish pin/pendant.

Skate fish have small spots on their back and wings — a feature that Wilson says inspired the northwest coast ovoid, the circular shape featured prominently in the province's Indigenous art.

The skate fish is known for its iconic rings on its back and has been fished for centuries along the coast of North America. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric/Flickr)

"It's kind of my homage towards the origin of the northwest coast art form," he said.

The Skate fish Pin/Pendant is 18K yellow gold, abalone shell, repousse, chased, engraved and textured: 2.5 x 1.5” (Lyle Wilson)

With files from CBC's North by Northwest

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Haisla artist carves gold in new exhibition