My name is Dale Marie Campbell and my Tahltan name is Tahlthtama, which translates to Tahltan Mother. I am from the Wolf Clan, of the Tahltan Nation with some Tlinget ancestry. I design and carve sculptures in wood, engrave jewelry in gold and silver, and produce sand-blasted glass pieces and button blankets. I have been working as an artist since 1972. Dempsey Bob invited me to come and learn how to design and carve Northwest Coast traditional art with him. I also had the opportunity to be mentored by Freda Diesing, which was amazing. During this time, I also was taught the art of toolmaking, which involved making the proper tools with the proper precision. This learning helped me to have the right tools for the creation of my work.
I was fortunate to have Dempsey Bob as a teacher with one on one instruction for three years at his home. He once told me that he believed I was a reincarnation of an artist from the past. I never forgot this.
Since 1976, I have exhibited my work in museums, art shows and have also worked as part of a team of carvers on teaching/learning projects such as a 30 foot totem pole in 1982.
In 1984, I completed a course in Basic Silversmithing at Vancouver Vocational Institute. With the knowledge of traditional Northwest Coast design, I taught myself the art of metal engraving.
Some of my career highlights are winning a contest for the Museum of Northern BC logo and design. I competed against some of the top artists of the region and won. The learning/teaching totem pole project was a big highlight for me because when I saw Freda Diesing’s pole I would dream of the day I would also be carving a large totem pole, and today I am one of a few women Totem Pole carvers.
The design and carving of another 30 foot totem pole on speculation provided me an opportunity to learn about marketing my art. My brother Terrence Campbell worked with me on this pole, which took three years to complete. In 1991, this particular pole was purchased by the Prime Minister of Canada through a selection process which involved 3 or 4 other top First Nation carvers from BC. My pole was selected. This pole was given as a gift of enduring friendship to the people of Hong Kong, and we participated at the Canada Festival Days. My brother and I represented First Nations artists from Canada. As part of the festival we carved an 8 foot pole on display, to demonstrate through a live exhibition, the skills of a traditional carver. I also created an original silk screen print for the gifts to the guests who came to the pole raising.
I see the intent of my work is to develop and refine my work to the highest form that I possibly can and for me it is my way of feeling connected to the past, present and future of my people and I feel that in my work.
If I come across a challenge in my work, I know that there is always a way to work with that challenge and I remind myself that there is a way to make it work for me and it reminds me that I am continuing to learn and develop through my work. Never give up – there is always a way. I would say this is an important part of my creative process – determination and perseverance to continue my work.