James McGuire was born in Queen Charlotte City, near the Haida Village of Skidegate on September 27th, 1953. From early childhood he displayed an astonishing artistic ability and spent many hours watching his maternal uncle Edmund Calder carve both wood and argillite. As a member of the Stastas Eagle clan from Skidegate, his grandmother is Mary Tulip who was the eldest niece of famed Haida carver Charles Edenshaw.
James spent many hours watching fine old Haida craftsmen carving in argillite, including his older brother, the late Patrick McGuire. The beauty and perfection of their work made a deep impression him and he was soon carving the precious slate himself. He faithfully included the ancient Haida figures on the totems, but interpreted them in his own unique style.
Carving in argillite was not enough to satisfy the creative urges of this amazingly talented young man. By 1970, James was carving on his own, which was subsidized by employment in the forest industry. In 1976, he moved to Vancouver where he learned to engrave jewelry in both silver and gold. For the most part he learned through books, museums, and from renowned Haida artist Gerry Marks who taught James how to temper and make his own tools from tempered steel.
In 2005, James attended two Haida art design seminars lead by master artist Robert Davidson and, upon completion, was presented with a certificate entitled “Being successful is no accident”. He proudly hangs this certificate in his workshop.
James' abstract style beautifully captures the light, and his designs are always unique even though the composition remains within the perimeters of traditional Haida form lines. This practice results in pieces that stand amongst the finest in the world of Haida art. His engraved jewelry, with their elegant lines and strict attention to detail, makes each completed piece a work of art and a coveted collector’s item. James is acknowledged to be one of the most outstanding Haida artists of this new century.