There's Canadiana and then there's museum quality Canadiana. The work by Sabina Hill, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, clearly fits in the latter category. In fact, her custom furniture, textiles, art and installations are so unique and of such outstanding craftsmanship, it leaves you wondering which pieces are furniture and which ones are works of art.
Hill is inspired by Canada's First Nations mythology and culture in the Pacific Northwest plus the natural beauty of the region. Animal and supernatural motifs used by West Coast aboriginal tribes are the focal point of her creations. In addition, a respect for the land is referenced in the natural materials used.
Commissions are accepted for residences and public spaces. Below, this room showcases a private commission of a hand-made area rug and tables. The inlay on the area rug and the tables is in the form of a whale. The table is the centre has 3 interlocking u-form tables which can be separated into side tables to reveal the whale motif in the centre of the rug. The rug's pattern represents the axe marks of an adze made by native wood carvers, which are also identified on the table's legs.
Besides accepting commissions, Hill often collaborates with local aboriginal artists to produce 7 collections: Totem; Harvest, Feast, Dwell; New Spirit; Form lines; and Accessories. All works are made in the province of B.C. and available in a limited edition.
Hill and the artists involved in the creative process ensure native motifs are respectfully represented. Below, one of the most striking pieces in the Harvest collection (in collaboration with artist Andy Everson) is the Thunderbird armchair. It is made from solid walnut and Italian leather that is sewn by hand with diamond tufted detailing. This remarkable piece of furniture is more like a work of art and is available in a limited edition of ten.
Hill is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and also holds a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Manitoba. This dual background makes her a designer with a strong eye for artful structure and the moral obligation to promote respect for nature and wildlife. Here, the gorgeous Passage Coffee Table showcases one of the most famous symbols of Canada's West Coast, the salmon. This table is from the Formlines Collection (in collaboration with Steve Smith) which uses Douglas fir and alder wood from B.C. forests, precision cut anodized aluminum and glass. Available in a limited edition of 25.
Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum acquired the Prow Coffee Table - Beaver from Hill's New Spirit Collection (in collaboration with Mark Preston), shown below, for their permanent modern Canadian collection. The first edition of 10 tables has sold out but is available in a second edition.
Hill uses a variety of materials, some obvious and expected like wood, glass and metal, and some not so expected like salmon skins. Below, salmon skins are tanned and sewn together to create these amazing Salmon Drum side tables from the Harvest Collection. The table tops are made from solid walnut wood.
First Nations adorn everyday objects with symbols. Hill's work honours this tradition. The bio on Hill's website states she designs furniture and art to "bring the ceremonial into daily life". Below, the powerful Moon Face Mask wall hanging features a well-known symbol of night-time protection, prophetic visions and fertility in Canada's First Nations culture. Hill's artistic expression relies somewhat on contemporary materials to express traditional themes. The mask is from the Formlines collection and is made of glass, solid polished aluminum, alder wood and stainless steel standoffs.
Sabina Hill's work honours First Nations culture, their legends and respect for the land. Her work also highlights the importance of connecting urban dwellers with the natural world and reminding all of us that we are a product of our environment and its culture. By bringing Hill's pieces into our homes, we can appreciate how lucky we are to live in a country so rich in history and beauty.
For more information or to order a commissioned or limited edition piece, contact Sabina Hill.
To learn more about Hill's work, visit Sabina Hill.
Interested in seeing more West Coast furniture? Check out these houseporn.ca articles:
All photos courtesy of Sabina Hill
Researched and written by Namrita Kohli, student in the Interior Decorating Certificate Program, George Brown College.