Noted St'at'imc carver Russell Adolph began carving stone in the spring of 2002. Like many outstanding native artists, Russell discovered early on that he was gifted with natural creative abilities. Having worked in the construction and forestry industries for most of his life, it wasn't until much later that he decided to devote all his time to honing his artistic talents.
"l was looking for a hobby and liked the idea of rock and stone," says Russell. "So I tried my hand at carving."
Russell has developed his unique style of artwork based on the study of ancient St'at'imc pictographs and petroglyphs. His vision is partly influenced by a combination of Inuit, West Coast First Nations and Native American styles.
For the first few years, Russell concentrated mostly on stone carving. He can spend days studying a piece of stone before he actually begins to carve. He observes the form and features of the rock, using the natural colours and contours as his inspiration for the carving takes shape. He uses a variety of minerals, including pyrophillite (also known as Wonderstone), soapstone and a rare variety called Yalakomite, named after the local Yalakom Valley where it is found.
Lately, Russell has also been carving other mediums, including ivory (mammoth and walrus tusks) and wood. He seeks out the raw materials from the Interior to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, from Alberta to as far north as Alaska.
In addition carving, Russell is also noted for his work with animal hides, turning taxidermy into art for display and regalia for dance. About four years ago, a close acquaintance who works as a taxidermist in Kamloops started preparing wildlife furs for Russell to make traditional ceremonial animal costumes and regalia, including wolverine, grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes and cougars. The local B.C. Fish and Wildlife Department also donates many seized and confiscated raw furs to Russell. The animal costumes and regalia are much sought-after by aboriginal organizations and art collectors, as well as practitioners of traditional Pow-Wow dancing.
Russell's ambitions for his future work include perfecting his skill in other mediums, such as wood carvings and harder stone. He is interested in leading jade carving workshops in order to share his knowledge of art and technique, as well as paying tribute to the local jade, which is a source of pride for the Lillooet area.