Award winning Haida artist, April White, has found a rare, new medium for her art thanks to a partnership with the Royal Canadian Mint. Ms. White was chosen by the mint to create a First Nation designs for a new collector’s series called Mythical Realms of the Haida, which feature three different supernatural beings from the realms of water, earth and sky.
The first coin of the three-part series was recently released and features a killer whale with a female form hidden inside. Ms. White drew her inspiration for the first design from her Haida Name— SGaana Jaad, which means to Killer Whale Woman.
“Haida women are very prominent in Haida stories and myths—understandable given our matrilineal society. So it was very important for me to develop a representation of the water realm that reflects not only myself being a woman, but as a Haida,” Ms. White said.
“I chose to include a human being in this image to indicate that Killer Whale, an iconic figure for me, is a supernatural being—possessing a human spirit and having a human form under its skin.”
The next two coins will be released in the spring of this year, for sale separately or as a series.
The second release will feature the Eagle, depicted as a dancer with human male form cloaked in feathers. In the third instalment the public will see a Black Bear with a child on its lap.
Each design began as a line drawing by Ms. White, knowing that necessary changes would be made by a designer at the mint to ensure the lines are suitable for the medium—enamel on metal.
“The mint didn’t make specific requests, but they did define the constraints that must be adhered to in the end. They have to cast tiny pools to corral the enamel to where it is to appear. Primarily, the coin diameter and the specific dimensions for the constraints, or pool walls on the surface of the coin, is what they do explicitly tell you.
“A lot of the lines in my original drawings were feathered to points, but they had to be rounded and widened to perform with the limits of the medium. I did the design the way I wanted, but allowed for what I knew was going to have to happen,” Ms. White said.
“It was a collaboration with me doing the design work, the original line drawings, and then the mint goes to work, after all they are the experts with this medium. They take that design to the limits”
This is not the first time Ms. White has worked on a team during her career. “I have done a few projects knowing I am going to be working with creative people—I like that idea of not having final control over the outcome and being surprised to see what it becomes through the contribution of others. ”
The silver and gold coins will be released in monetary denominations of $50 and $500 respectively, but collectors are guaranteed to pay much more than face value.
Just one of the five-ounce, limited-edition, pure-silver coins carries a price tag of $549.95. The pure gold edition of the same design will cost collectors $12,000 before taxes.
“I am shocked that people would pay that much for a coin,” Ms. White said. “The silver one, not so much, but the gold…”
There are only 50 of the gold and 1,500 of the silver coins available, making it a hot ticket item with true coin collectors.
The Royal Canadian Mint website states that the gold orca coin is already 80 per cent sold out.