British Columbia

Kamloops artist getting recognized for stone tools

First Nations artist Ed Jensen has been making tools like knives and arrowheads since he was a child, but it's only recently that he's started getting real recognition for his work.

Ed Jensen is getting global attention for his traditional techniques and stone tools

Ed Jensen has been creating stone tools since he was a child. (Tara Copeland/CBC)

First Nations artist Ed Jensen has been making tools since he was a child, but it's only recently that he's started getting real recognition for his work.

"It's been a whirlwind year," he told Daybreak Kamloops.

He has just been cast in a mini-series that will air on APTN this coming January, and a number of galleries and stores are selling his work across B.C. and the world.

"I'm termed an emerging artist at this point late in my life because I've never had exposure."

Jensen uses traditional techniques to create knives and arrowheads. 

As a young boy growing up in the Kamloops area, he says he started making bows out of chokecherry branches and bailing twine, which eventually evolved into the making of arrowheads.

"I started to break the rocks into shapes and later on in my life, I discovered that it's something that's been done by my ancestors for centuries," said Jensen.

Traditional techniques

To create the stone tools, he chips away at pieces of stone, making sure to save larger pieces to become arrowheads.

"I cut myself nearly every time I work with this stuff," he said

"This stuff is quite amazing when it comes to how sharp it really is."

The tools are created by chipping away tiny pieces of stone until the piece is revealed. (Tara Copeland/CBC)

Because he's using traditional techniques to create the stone tools, there is a bit of concern from the archeological world.

"What I do can be mistaken for ancient technology," he said.

"I've been asked to ... have my backyard registered as an [archeology] site, so they can date it and be aware of my work there."

Kamloops archeologist Joanne Hammond has heard of his work and said evidence of his work would look quite similar to something that was created millennia ago.

"The debitage that comes from their manufacture would be virtually indistinguishable from pre-contact artifacts," she said.

Hammond is not too concerned about Jensen's work causing much confusion, because archeologists look at other factors when dating a site.

"I think the benefit of having somebody who is reviving those techniques and technologies is so much greater than any risks to archeological knowledge," she said.

"There was a time when everybody on the planet was capable of making stone tools and now that number is probably less tham 15,000 people on the whole planet."

'Feels so natural'

As for Jensen, he feels like his work is a part of who he is as an artist and a First Nations person.

Ed Jensen's work is displayed in shops and galleries, including the Kamloops Courthouse Gallery. (Tara Copeland/CBC)

"I feel like I was born 500 years too late. If what we believe is true, that our spirits carry on through time, I was probably doing this 1,000 years ago," he said.

"It just feels so natural. It just feels like my hands were made for stone."

With files from Tara Copeland and CBC Radio One's Daybreak Kamloops

​To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Kamloops artist getting recognized for stone tools