VANCOUVER, British Columbia - As a child, playing on the docks and beaches around Ketchikan, Alaska, Dorothy Grant soaked up the color and power of the natural world.
From the women of the Raven clan from the Brown Bear house of Howkan, she learned her family's crests, the two-finned killer whale, the shark, berry picker in the moon and the brown bear. From her grandmother she learned spruce-root basket weaving. From her people, she learned the traditional Haida art forms.
Busy living the life behind the symbols, never once did she think of becoming an internationally recognized fashion designer, bringing Haida art to the world.
Perhaps because art was simply a part of life, Grant, untrained and totally talented, simply "did" art. Within a couple years after graduating from community college in Seattle as a data-entry operator, Grant was making great strides as a traditional Haida artist. Her ceremonial button blankets and spruce-root hats were used in potlatches and ceremonies up and down the coast.
Soon treasured by Haida Natives as expressions of their living culture, much of Grant's work ended up in art collections or museums such as the deYoung Museum in San Francisco, the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.