Shawn Aster

Shawn Patrick Aster is Ts’msyen from the house of Dzewalaks/La’oy, of the Gitkxaala Nation, "People of the Open Sea,”  because they are the westernmost Tsimshian group.

Shawn was born 1980 in Vancouver and raised in Kitkatla. His mother was from Gitkxaala, Lach Klan. Kitkatla is one of the oldest continually inhabited communities on the Northwest Coast. 

Growing up, Shawn was inspired by the artists Roy Henry Vickers and Bill Reid, and he was strongly affected by the NWC art books available and the old totem poles that remained in his community.

“Although the old poles have decayed and are now returning to the earth, the images on them were somewhat still visible when I was a child. One pole was a Eagle that stood proudly at the waterfront. Two or three other poles were always lying on the ground and must have fallen before I was born. These poles always made me think about kitkatla history and how old our culture is.”

At a young age Shawn knew that he wanted to be an artist. He began drawing and practicing Tsimshian form line and he studied the classic Northwest Coast art books as a child.

"I would try memorizing all the different shapes and symbols that make up the form line and arrange them in my own way to try and complete a pleasing design. It wasn't easy, but every once in a while some designs would turn out right.” 

In 2008, Shawn was selected to attend the prestigious Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. He was taught the formal language of Tsimshian design by world renowned artists Dempsey Bob, Ken McNeil and Stan Bevan. Under their mentorship , he learned to sculpt, creating fine masks, ladles, paddles, spoons and bowls.