I trace direct maternal lineage to the Kaa’was (“Sea Eggs”) clan from the village of Kiusta, Haida Gwaii, and it is from here that my hereditary right to weave comes from. My father was born in Dublin, Ireland, and I also recognize this lineage. The name I carry in the Kwakwala language is Kwaxhi’laga, which translates to “Smoke Coming Out of the Top of the Big House, Welcoming People to Feast and Potlatch”. In the Haida language I carry the name of my maternal great grandmother Ruby Simeon: Jaad Kuujus -“Dear Woman”. These names are precious to me as they indicate my involvement in the contemporary ceremonial practices of my people.
In 2010, I made the shift from professional snowboarder to full-time traditional weaver. I also spent twelve years in the commercial fishing industry, during which I also spent time on the land gathering berries and other traditional foods and medicine. This practice of being on the land inspired the first baskets I wove, and were used for harvesting. I made my first berry basket on my own, which I gifted to my granny Minnie. Beau Dick, hereditary Chief and master carver, then introduced me to his daughter and accomplished weaver, Kerri Dick (Haida-Kwakwaka’wakw). Kerri taught me fine basket weaving techniques. I later worked with master weavers Sherri Dick (Haida) and William White (Tsimshian) to learn how to spin wool and weave Chilkat and Raven’s Tail styles. These teachers shared a foundation of respect for the classical weaving traditions and meanings.
Working with materials such as mountain goat wool and cedar bark has given me a deep connection to the natural and supernatural world. Sometimes I describe it as travelling back in time, or like touching the cosmos. It has also given me a profound and tangible connection to my ancestors, and brought me into involvement with present day Northwest Coast societies and into circles of art, academia, environmentalism, and fashion.
Since I began in 2007, my work has been devoted to nature, simplicity, and tradition. 2017 marked a dramatic shift when I was invited to show at Western Canada Fashion Week, which led to fashion as a platform for my work. Through curators Jaimie Isaac and Kate Hennessey I have also began exploring the possibilities of 3D printing works for use in museum exhibitions. In the years ahead I plan to look at how these ancient art forms and cultural practices can integrate and contribute to the contemporary space of our lives today”
For us Jaad Kuujus is the embodiment of being an artist. The delicate and profound way of expression touches our feelings on every level. Thank you Jaad Kuujus for sharing your creations and energy.