Bill Reid's Art

A guided journey

Take a guided journey through Bill Reid’s artistic career in these three illustrated essays by Dr. Martine Reid.

Beyond Haida 1968-1998

By Dr. Martine Reid, independent scholar, author, curator.

Photo: “The Milky Way” Necklace, intricately-constructed of gold and diamonds

Bill Reid
"The Milky Way" Necklace
1969
22k and 18k gold, diamonds
17 cm inside diameter
Bill Reid Foundation Collection, BRFC#97
Gift of Dr. Martine Reid
Photo: Kenji Nagai

Photo: Gold and diamond brooch detachable from “The Milky Way” Necklace

Bill Reid
"The Milky Way" Necklace, Detachable Brooch
1969
22k and 18k gold, diamonds
4.75 x 4.5 cm
Bill Reid Foundation Collection, BRFC#97
Gift of Dr. Martine Reid
Photo: Kenji Nagai

In London Reid refined his skills and techniques. More particularly, he learned the ancient technique of casting gold by the lost wax process. No longer would he have to construct hollow pieces by soldering small pieces of gold together. He could now carve a wax model, coat it with a hard plaster, make a mold, melt out the wax, and pour molten gold into the mold. Then he could break away the mold and finish the gold piece by hand. He would use that technique for many later projects in his third phase of work regardless of the materials -- gold, silver, or bronze.

In 1969, he settled in Montreal for three years where he completed an intricate gold and diamond necklace that he titled “The Milky Way.” He also created his famous “The Raven and the First Men” carving in boxwood which he would later cast in gold, and which he would later enlarge into the large yellow cedar raven displayed at the Museum of Anthropology and featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar banknote.

Sadly, he was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which would limit his physical movements in the later period of his life. He returned to Vancouver in 1973 where he lived and worked until his death in 1998.

The Haida and other Northwest Coast peoples make masks that open up to transform from one creature to another when the dancer wearing the mask pulls strings. The mask represents two creatures that share the same space at the same time; a concept unique to the Northwest Coast. “The Milky Way” gold and diamond necklace appears to be very modern, but it too is really two necklaces that occupy the same space at the same time. One is constructed of irregular three-dimensional pyramids -- little volcanoes with a diamond in their center -- and the other is made from gold wire. A brooch can be removed from the centre of the necklace and worn separately, so “The Milky Way” is really made of three pieces occupying the same space.

Reid’s work became more complex and more three-dimensional in his later years. He made several gold repoussé bracelets, three-dimensional hollowware pieces, lost-wax pieces, and inlaid pieces of jewelry that were indeed deeply carved.

Photo: Circular gold pendant with Haida Grizzly Bear design

Bill Reid
Grizzly Bear Pendant
1972
22k gold, lost wax technique
5 cm diameter
Bill Reid Foundation Collection, BRFC#35
Gift of Dr. Martine Reid

Photo: Gold pendant with haliotis shell inlay with Haida Wolf design

Bill Reid
Wolf Pendant
1976
22k gold, haliotis shell inlay, lost wax technique
4 x 4 x 1.5 cm
Bill Reid Foundation Collection, BRFC#36
Gift of Dr. Martine Reid
Photo: Kenji Nagai

Photo: Gold bracelet repousséd and engraved with Haida Beaver and Eagle design

Bill Reid
Beaver and Eagle Bracelet
1972
22k gold, repoussé, engraved, textured
6 cm W
Private collection
Photo: Kenji Nagai

Photo: Bear-shaped glossy gold dish with 3D “Bear Mother” suckling Bear cubs on cover

Bill Reid
"Haida Myth of Bear Mother" Dish
1972
22k gold, lost wax technique, engraved, glossy finish
7.3 cm H x 5.2 cm W x 7 cm L
Bear-shaped dish, 3D Bear mother suckling Bear cubs on cover
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Canada
CMC Artifact #IV-B-1574 a,b (S83-368)

Photo: Gold box with Beaver and Human design and leaping 3D Killer Whale on lid

Bill Reid
Killer Whale Box
Box: Beaver and Human design, constructed, repoussé, engraved
Lid: Killer Whale design, lost wax technique
1971
22k gold
9.4 cm H x 8.2 cm W x 9.9 cm L
Collection of the Royal BC Museum, Victoria
RBCM Artifact #13902 a,b
Photography © Raymond Lum

Photo: Serigraph of Haida Dog Salmon -- Skaagi on paper

Bill Reid
Haida Dog Salmon
1974
Serigraph on paper
56 x 76 cm
Private collection
Photo: Linda Stanfield

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