Nuxalk artist Sesyaz Saunders was born in 1998 and those close to him say it was as if the young artist was born with a carving knife in his hand.
Sesyaz’s father, Skip Saunders, is a respected and accomplished Nuxalk carver. His grandfather Arthur “Silyas” Saunders, was also a distinguished carver; a former Native Artist Fellowship Award recipient an honour bestowed by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Sesyaz’s great grandfather, Joe Saunders, was a legendary boat and canoe builder. One might say carving is in Saunders’ blood.
While his father and grandfather were self-taught, Sesyaz had the privilege of being instructed by his father. A natural teacher, Skip Saunders taught Sesyaz the fundamental skills of carving and the elemental knowledge of Nuxalk and Northwest Coast formline art. This combination of knowledge and passion, as well as an astounding natural talent, has allowed the young artist to excel in his craft at an early age and create works of art well beyond his years.
By the time Sesyaz was 12 he was already selling his work directly to local customers. By 14 his work was showing in local Bella Coola galleries. In the short years since, his work has been purchased by customers from far and wide. His carvings have traveled to Germany, England, Spain, Scandinavia, Chile, Russia and the United States. He has also received a number of commissions from collectors eager to invest in his abilities.
After his passing in 2015, Sesyaz’s grandfather Silyas left an extensive collection of carving knives to his gifted grandson. With these tools Sesyaz plans on completing and raising a sixteen foot totem pole his grandfather left unfinished when he passed.
In 2016 Sesyaz received the prestigious YVR (Vancouver International Airport) Art Foundation Youth Artist Scholarship Award. Of the seven award winners, Sesyaz was the youngest by four years. Currently Sesyaz is working on a carving which when finished will join the world-renowned collection of Northwest Coast art at the Vancouver International Airport. Sesyaz continues to develop his talent and create works of art that are distinctively Nuxalk and uniquely his own.