Bill (William) Ronald Reid
Full Name: William Ronald "Bill” Reid
Alternative Names: Bill Reid, Kihlguulins (Golden Voice)
Date of birth: January 12, 1920
Place of birth: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Date of death: March 13, 1998
Place of death: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Community / Heritage: Haida
Art Media: Silkscreen, serigraph, embossed paper, lithograph, gold, silver, bronze.
William Ronald Reid, (known as Bill Reid) was a Canadian Haida artist whose works include jewellery, sculpture, screen-printing and paintings. He was born in Victoria, British Columbia in 1920. His father, Ronald Reid Sr., was an American of Scottish German descent, and his mother, Sophie Gladstone Reid, was from the Kaadaas gaah Kiiguwaay, Raven/Wolf Clan of T'anuu (better known as the Haida), one of the First Nations of the Pacific Coast.
In 1943, Reid visited Haida Gwaii for the first time since his childhood, where he was heavily influenced by his maternal grandfather, Charles Gladstone (1877–1954), a Haida silversmith. In his youth, Gladstone had lived and studied with his uncle, renowned Haida artist Charles Edenshaw (1839–1920). Reid became very interested in Edenshaw’s work, and began studying the traditional symbolism, traditions and totem poles of the Haida, which would influence his subsequent career.
In 1944, at age 29, Reid married his first wife, Mabel "Binkie" van Boyen. They had one child together and later adopted a second. That same year, Reid was conscripted into the Canadian Army, serving for a period of one year.
In 1939, Reid had began working as a radio broadcaster in Kelowna. From 1948 until 1958, he worked as a radio broadcaster at CBC radio in Toronto and later, in Vancouver. While working for the CBC in Toronto, Reid enrolled in a jewelry making course at the Ryerson Institute of Technology. He spent two years studying European jewelry techniques, followed by a partial apprenticeship at the Platinum Art Company. During his time in Toronto, Reid also wrote and narrated a television documentary about the totem poles on the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as a documentary about the "People of Potlatch" exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
In 1951, Reid returned to Vancouver, continuing to work for the CBC. He would later establish a jewelry-making studio on Granville Island, a neighbourhood in Vancouver. After seeing and studying more works by Charles Edenshaw, Reid decided to produce traditional Haida jewelry, while applying some of the European techniques he’d learned.
In 1954, Reid joined Wilson Duff of the Provincial Museum and Harry Hawthorn of UBC on an expedition to Haida Gwaii to salvage classical Haida poles. Between 1954 and 1968, Reid made many expeditions to Haida Gwaii and worked with several artists, including renowned artist Mungo Martin.
In 1968, Reid moved to London and spent a year at the Central School of Design on a Canada Council fellowship with the aim of improving his goldsmithing techniques. Upon his return, he moved to Montreal and started a jewelry workshop, where he worked for three years.
In 1973, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Reid returned to Vancouver, which would be his home for the rest of his life.
In 1978, Reid completed a 17-meter totem pole for the new Skidegate band council office on Queen Charlotte Islands. It was the first pole to be raised in his mother's village in more than a century. Two years later, he completed a 4.5-ton sculpture “The Raven and the First Men” for the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.
Reid's 15.2-meter ocean-going cedar canoe, “Lootaas (Wave Eater),” was commissioned by the Bank of British Columbia and was launched in 1986. In 1989, it was paddled up the Seine River to be exhibited at the Musee de l'Homme in Paris, France.
Throughout the 1990s, Reid continued to be recognized for his work and efforts to preserve Haida art. He received many honorary titles and awards, including the Royal Bank Award for Outstanding Canadian Achievement, the Order of British Columbia, and the Canadian Native Arts Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement award. Reid’s “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” was featured on a stamp issued by Canada Post on April 30, 1996.
Reid died in Vancouver on March 13, 1998 at age 78 after a 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Over the course of his career, Reid created more than 1,500 works, and contributed to a revitalization of Haida art, as well as helping to bring Northwest Coast art to a global audience.
- 1967: Collaborated on Arts of the Raven exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery
- 1989: Musée de l'Homme in Paris
· The University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology, British Columbia, Canada
· The Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
· The Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
· The British Museum, London, United Kingdom
· The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
· 1976: Honorary degree from the University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada
· 1994: The GMA Canada Lifetime Achievement Award
· 1996: Reid’s sculpture The Spirit of Haida Gwaii was honoured with an issued Canadian stamp
· Honorary degree from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
· Honorary degree from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
· Honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
· Honorary degree York University
· Honorary degree Trent University
· A member of the Order of British Columbia
· An Officer of France's Order of Arts and Letters
· A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
· The Canada Council Molson Award
· The Bronfman Award for Excellence in Crafts
· The Vancouver Lifetime Achievement Award
· The Royal Bank Award for Outstanding Canadian Achievement