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Never to late to start something new

Joseph Campbell embodies the adage that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. A student of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, Joseph has been a self-taught artist for more than 50 years. The formal training he desired eluded him until last year when he decided to try one more time to make his dream come true.

Watching his father Sylvester and brother Danny carve when he was home for holidays from residential school inspired his passion for art. He learned a lot from his family, and over the years established his skills, selling his work door-to-door and through the Lattimer Gallery in Vancouver, while working a full time job.

In the early 1970s he recalls seeing an advertisement for the Kitanmax School of Northwest Coast Art in Hazelton BC and wanted to go. However, his job as Truck Driver with the City of Vancouver kept him in the lower mainland. He asked every superintendent he had over the years for a work leave to attend school and was turned down every time. That didn’t keep him from continuing to work on his passion. He went to work for 8 hours a day and would come home to carve until midnight, sometimes pulling all-nighters, creating panels, plaques and talking sticks.

After his retirement in 2005, and with the encouragement from fellow artist Art Thompson, Joseph was able to take the Arts program at the Capilano College where he learned to work with various mediums including bronze, cement, plastic and glass. This training was intended to begin his apprenticeship with Art Thompson, but it ended before it began as Art sadly became ill and succumbed to cancer. “He gave me the light to keep trying to pursue art,” says Joseph, who continued to learn and master different forms of his craft. During this period in his life Joseph was introduced to and learned from master bentwood box carver Larry Rosso. Joseph began to dedicate his time to creating and perfecting bentwood boxes, which are now in high demand at the Coastal People’s Fine Arts Gallery.

Joseph will be graduating with his Fine Arts Diploma from the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art May 2018. He says it is hard to be away from his family, but he has stayed focused and is finding inspiration everywhere. He worked hard to get here and he’s making the most of every moment.

Joseph is passionate about resurrecting traditional artwork and is passing on his skills to his grand children. “We are trying to bring our culture back,” he says, “there are lots of place to learn and work and I encourage young people to find those resources.” It hasn’t been easy to be separated from his family, but Joseph has stayed focused and is looking forward to his graduation this year.

Joseph’s story is one of perseverance and dedication to pursuing his passion and he has been enjoying every minute of his journey to Terrace to study with artists who have inspired him. “Frustration and imagination will help you get through things,” he says, “Never give up, follow your dreams and have fun with whatever you do, you learn faster.” 


To see some of Joseph's work visit the Coastal People's gallery here: