Kelly Robinson 'The First Tree Ancestor'

By Emma DelliCarpini
Posted in News, on March 03, 2018

This new cuff by Nuxalk artist Kelly Robinson represents some of the earliest Nuxalk stories which detail creation of the land and animals. The bracelet is titled The First Tree Ancestor and the design begins centrally and radiates outwards - a representation of the progression of stories and history through time.

The Tree of Life is central to the composition, situated between the Raven and the Thunderbird. After the land was formed by the creator, the earliest stories are about the Raven and the Thunderbird. These stories are very powerful in Nuxalk culture and prominent in the oral history.


A human figure is included at either end of the bracelet. After the animals, stories of humans and clans emerge within Nuxalk oral history. Based on the prominent placement of these figures and their attire, it is fair to assume that these humans represent ancestors and/or past chiefs.


Kelly's technical skill in carving and metalwork are showcased in many ways on this piece. His engraving is distinctive and his strong understanding of formline is clear. The cutouts in the centre and along the top showcase the complex composition of the piece and demonstrate the care Kelly had to take when bending and shaping the cuff. This piece is wide but has a delicate effect. The First Tree Ancestor by Kelly Robinson is bound to make a striking and unique addition to any jewellery collection.


Kelly learned Nuxalk design and conventions from Nuxalk artist Alvin Mack. He began painting in 1997, and familiarized himself with Northwest Coast aesthetics. While Kelly is making a name for himself with his prints and jewellery, he has started to branch out and apply his designs to other media. For example, he has created several bentwood boxes for Lattimer Gallery. Kelly also graduated from the Northwest Coast Jewellery Arts program at Vancouver's Native Education College in March of 2010. Immediately following this, he apprenticed under Haida jeweler James McGuire. Many of his pieces display traditional Nuxalk design with a modern twist, such as reversing positive and negative space in places.