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The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1)


Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: November 1, 2014

Web Domain: 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 1

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 26

Formal Sub-Theme: “The Tsimshian”

Individual Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Corey Moraes

Word Count: 3,228

Image Credit: None.

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*


Corey Moraes is Tsimshian. He was born April 14, 1970, in Seattle, Washington. He has worked in both the U.S.A. and in Canada. He has painted canoes for Vision Quest Journeys (1997). He was featured in Totems to Turquoise (2005), Challenging Traditions (2009), and Continuum: Vision and Creativity on the Northwest Coast (2009). He earned the 2010 Aboriginal Traditional Visual Art Award and Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. His trademark artistic works are Coastal Tsimshian style with gold jewellery, limited edition prints, masks, silver jewellery, and wood carvings. Moraes discusses: some personal and family background; proficient in carving; production of art; the observations of youth; the ovoid and the U form; the more advanced forms; some of the feedback; longevity in a piece; and a piece speaks to you.

Keywords: Canada, carving, Corey Moraes, Indigenous, Native American, ovoid form, Seattle, The Tsimshian, U form, United States of America.

The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1)

*Interview conducted on February 10, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Okay, let’s start from the top. What are some personal and family background? Was there a bit of artistic license when young?

Corey Moraes: You want to know where I was born, stuff like that.

Jacobsen: Yes.

Moraes: I was born in Seattle in 1970 into an impoverished, single-mother structure. My father was never really there for me. He was murdered a week before I turned 4-years-old. By the time I was 5-years-old, I witnessed my mother almost died from an injury by one of her many boyfriends that she had. We bounced around from as south as California. Until, we settled in Surrey by the time I was 8-years-old. I was here until I was 30 before moving back down to Seattle. It was supposed to be for a apprenticing totem pole carving. I ended up meeting my now wife and having four children. If you go back to my being raised up here, my mom always tried to keep some constants in all the many moves that we had to meet growing up. One of the things that she tried to keep constant was to, at least, have some sort of Native representation, where there was a drawing or something mass produced. She always encouraged me to have pride in our culture and in our background. When I was about 10-years-old, she was dating this Haida jeweller and Argillite carver named Pat Dixon. Pat would complete his works in our little apartment. That’s where I got my real first exposure to work being created. It fascinated me to see what I had normally grown up with, which was called form design. Ovoid and U form being constructed almost like Lego. Until, you create some kind of character or creature. I saw him having these designs just flow out of him onto the sketch pad or pieces of silver, or pieces of black shale, also commonly known as Argillite.

But as with any of the relationships with my mother, it always ended in violence. He wasn’t around for too long. While he was there, I believe that the seed was planted, at the very least, which bloomed much later. I didn’t become completely interested in our art form to the point of pursuing it, until my mid-20s. Before that, a couple of stalled attempts at a post-secondary career, where I learned computer technician(-ship) and telecommunications. It wasn’t for me. After that, I thought, “I want to try something more grassroots and give back something to my neighbourhood, and my culture. So, I wanted to be a drug and alcohol counsellor.” I took training in that. It has a high burnout rate. The turning point for putting my full attention into the art came when I was literally floating down the creek in an inner tube. One of my mentors, I confessed to them that this counselling that I was doing was far too taxing on me, emotionally. It came from the finest of intentions. It wasn’t working. They said, “There are more ways that you can give back to the culture and to your community than just as a counsellor.” It encouraged me to do what I eventually settled on, which was fine art. For the most part, I am mostly self-taught.

Jacobsen: How long does training take to become proficient in carving?

Moraes: I think it depends on your enthusiasm and whether or not you’re doing it part-time or full-time. I refused to get a job despite my present girlfriend-at-the-time’s lamenting. At any given time, I had more value in a finished work that would pay for all of my bills at the present time, but things weren’t selling. You have to convince the market that you are serious about putting out consistent work. That takes, at least, a couple of years for people to even begin to know your name. Yes, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of missed bills, creditors chasing me around. I think it is a proving ground for how much this means to you. At least, back in the ‘90s, it has changed dramatically since then, since the advent of social media and the internet. I can’t remember the last time I walked out of a gallery with a paper cheque in my hand. Things are done electronically.

Jacobsen: What does a consistency in production of art do for one’s career? What do periods of inconsistency of production of art do for one’s career in those periods of inconsistency or consistency?

Moraes: By “consistency”, what are you referring to: the quality of the work or the output of the product?

Jacobsen: I would say, “Both.” Both the quality and the quantity at reasonable expectations for a sustainable life.

Moraes: I have done both in my career. I have put out so much work consistently, several pieces a month. That I would have some orders say, “I don’t know how you do it. Because you have young kids at home.” I would say, “I do it because I have young kids at home. I got bills to pay.” The opposite end of the spectrum, I have put out very minimal work over the span or two or three years. To the point where the galleries begin to get a little more curious, “Is he coming to the end of his career?” They almost become masochistic in their approach to me. Because I don’t approach galleries the way that I used to; I used to pander to the audience, the galleries, and their needs. I don’t anymore. I think that speaks to 20+ years, coming up on 24 years here now, of a wide range of artwork that can all be drawn back to the same stylistic impression of what it is that I do. Whether I do it in silver, wood, airbrush, watercolor, acrylic painting, oil painting, puppetry, animation, illustration, all of it looks like it has come from my hands. None of it has strayed too far from what is my artistic integrity and my vision for what it is that I would like to see exist far beyond my lifespan.

Jacobsen: How have you taken some of the observations of youth, as well as some independent research into your own heritage, to inform some of your more prominent artistic productions? In other words, seeing the evolution of that over time.

Moraes: You’re referring to “youth”, as in what?

Jacobsen: So, you were mentioning, for instance, the Haida jeweller, seeing others in your life, as you are developing as a younger artist, kind of do their own art who are veteran in the field and kind of transitioning over time as you are gaining more knowledge, and incorporating that in your productions.

Moraes: So, you’re talking about the evolution of the art form.

Jacobsen: Yes.

Moraes: When you’re beginning to learn this form, this goes back you had asked about proficiency and how long it takes to become proficient. This art form is based on 2 or 3 really basic elements: the ovoid, the U form, some people say the S shapes. It consists of these really basic elements. These really basic elements may be words. They are an alphabet. They create words. As you get better, you create sentences. As you get better, you create paragraphs. At which point, you get to the point where I am at, where you can create a long poem or a short novel of sorts. As I became more proficient in the language of this Form Line, I have been able to stretch the discourse of what this art represents, where it resides in the timeline. My challenge, now that I know that I can create these long phrases and poems, and short novella of Form Line, is to go into other directions much as a writer might. I have my superhero genre that I focus on. I have a writer help me with the storyline on that now. I have children’s material/direction that I go and work with. I have the very classic style that I do. I also have a very almost New Age style of work that I do that incorporates contemporary, almost pop culture, elements. On top of all of this, one of my pet projects is kind of a cross-pollination of pan-Pacific Rim innovation, which, basically, means I see a lot of core similarities between ancient Japanese artworks and classic Northwest Coast style. By bridging these two together and cross-pollinating them, I have come up with something that looks like it has always been there. That exists of a kind, doesn’t look strained, doesn’t look forced. That’s kind of where I am at now. I have connected all of these threads. I have gathered them up with both hands and am weaving a fabric now. The past and present, and what I want to see in the future.

Jacobsen: Why are the ovoid and the U form the fundamental characters – the line forms?

Moraes: It has been widely investigated and disputed over all of contemporary society works, where stuff originated from. You can look at it from an anthropological point of view. You can look at it from a scholastic or even an artistic point of view. But I think it comes back to spirituality. One of the best explanations I heard came from a dear art from of mine who passed away, Beau Dick. One of the first times that I ever met him was when I came up here from Seattle. I had to do a photo shoot for a book/art show called “Totems to Turquoise.” This is something that began as a cultural exchange between New Mexico turquoise and silver artists cut into Haida Gwaii and seeing out how art and jewellery is presented there. The Haida Gwaii artists came down to Santa Fe to see how their art was fabricated. I was there with a bunch of other artists waiting their turn. Beau came up to me. I was a wearing a hat woven by a Haida weaver that I painted. The way that I painted it was all-encompassing. It wasn’t just something that was slapped on like a patch. It took up the full space of the hat. He recognized that right away as a classic. He knew who I was from other publications. He is talking to me and gushing about the complexities of the Form Line on this hat. He says, “Do you know where these forms came from?” I said, “I have heard various stories. What do you have?” He said, “We have all heard of the Great Flood. The Great Flood affected a lot of our peoples. When it receded, it took a lot of our art away. It left a lot in its wake. One of the things that was on the beaches were these forms. He saw the ovoid here. He saw the U form over them. These were given by the Creator to us. It was a way for us to rebuild what was taken away from us.” So, I’ve always liked that explanation because loss came another gift. That gift was the ability to convey art, mythology, to covent our family histories through this new form.

Jacobsen: What are some of the main forms that you’re portraying in the more advanced forms? Once you’ve gone from single letters to use your analogy of writing to these poems and short stories, what are the representations there?

Moraes: What I really want to convey when I am doing a classic design, like a box design or a chest design, I want the people to be able to let their eye dance along with the rhythm that I am creating with this art form. A lot of people have described my art style as almost sensual compared to other artists. There is a very on-purpose direction to my art. But it is not done in a clumsy manner. It is not done in a way that is offensive. It is very appealing to the eye. This is what I have been told. I think what I am trying to get across is that you can reach a level of art form, of creation, where time almost stands still. When you’re standing in front of a piece of my work, I want that piece of work to draw you in, to make you forget about whatever it was that was going on before that piece. I want you to revisit the piece that I create at different times throughout your life if you happen to own it. I want you to see different things every time that you come to that piece. In my vision, what I am trying to create this form, I want it to be almost multilingual. I want you to see something different every time that you look at it.

Jacobsen: What has been some of the feedback on those?

Moraes: I can tell you a quick story of this piece that I did. It was based upon this song. This Japanese artist was in this movie Kill Bill Vol. I, which I just watched again, recently. It is called “Battle without Honour or Humanity”. When I hear this, this song is instrumental. I see a very specific, vibrant image in my head. I try to portray this on the panel that I have created over a few months. It was a double-layered panel. The basis of it, there was a Form Line design on the bottom with the background of a leaf. In the forefront, there was the yellow cedar that I carved in what the sculptural thickness would allow. To complete this complexity of the panel, I incorporated a dorsal fin from the killer whale. I had to make, I think, 186 varied-sized pieces of wooden dowel for the suckers for the octopus to be put onto the tentacles. Anyways, I completed this piece. It sat in Douglas Reynold’s gallery for months. Doug told me this story about this millionaire from Alberta who comes through regularly with his kids. They rent a limo from the airport. On the way to Whistler, they always stop at Douglas Reynold’s gallery. These sons saw this panel for the first time. They couldn’t stop staring at it. His dad brushed it off and went about other business and a bunch of bigger artists. They came back through again some time later. He asked, “The art piece,” as they rotate the art pieces in this gallery, “Where is that octopus and killer whale?” They had to go into their storage and pull it out for him to stare at again. This went on for several trips, Doug said. His father, the millionaire collector, never thought much about this until so many visits went by that he thought, “He is really attached to looking at this art piece” [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Right [Laughing].

Moraes: He stopped what he was doing. He looked at the piece and just from the infatuation that his young son had with this piece. He decided to connect. He purchased it. To me, it was a changing of the guard. There is this passing of past collectors; that are downsizing their world now. Their kids have moved out. They are starting to get rid of large art pieces. These are the Baby Boomers. The next generation that is growing up behind and who are coming into their own now. That’s what I believe his son represents: that generation that sees something different in the art. A lot of the people have said that my art is ahead of its time. That one particular panel didn’t speak immediately to that father because his head is wrapped up in the art collecting period from the late ‘60s up until about the ‘90s, about a 30-year span. Whereas, his son’s head is more towards what the future of this art can represent. I believe that piece, when it is looked back upon maybe 10/25/30/40 years from now, will be seen as a piece that spoke to the younger generation more than the Baby Boomers.

Jacobsen: How do you ensure longevity in a piece? Or is that even a reasonable question?

Moraes: I like to believe my pieces will continue to persist long after I am gone. There are times that I’ve started pieces and not completed them. I have put them away for 7 years or more. It has to speak to me. I’ve tried to do work that is much more shallow. I can’t. It fights me. I’ll end up stabbing my hand by accident. I’ll slip. I am arguing with the piece. I have to be at one with the piece for lack of a better term. Sometimes, it is this unspoken dialogue that “this doesn’t belong here. This has to stay. This has to be dug deeper.” When it all works well, sometimes, my best pieces are kind of the most painful to get out because with jewellery, for example. If I have to do all kinds of hand-finished tacking, and if it feels like it is starting to aggravate me, I get agitated because I will want it to be done. That’s when I know I am on the right track because, now, I am out of my comfort zone. When I out of my comfort zone, I know this piece will speak because I am putting a lot more work into it than usual. Those turn out, for me, to be some pretty special pieces, I believe, have the potential to speak as strongly if not more loudly down the road.

Jacobsen: What is the feeling when a piece speaks to you, at first?

Moraes: The only term I can give is that they are kind of like my children. There is a joy there for being honoured enough to have that connect with my hands. At the same time, it is kind of jarring to realize that, “Yes, I am self-taught. How did this happen?” But it is starting to make more sense now; that I’ve had actual children and the very last one is almost scary to me. Because he’s just like me. But he is me who still has a father, right? He’s not me whose father was murdered before he turned four, which really set up some huge potholes down the road in my life, growing up without a father. So, he has a father. Not only does he have a father, his father is artistic. And his father’s artisticness has passed on to him in spades. He’s far more talented than I was at that age. He is far more grounded than I was at that age. As long as I am still living and breathing, I will continue to foster these things in him. I know that he is going to be an artist out of the four children that we made together. One of them has come out as very, very heavily creative. That makes sense to me now, because, before this, I wouldn’t see any connective thread to the creative force. But it was there. I just didn’t know how to explain it. Now, I can, because he’s clearly part of me, clearly part of my wife. He’s most, obviously, going to be a creative force to reckon with in 10, 15, 20 years.






American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1). November 2022; 11(1).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, November 15). The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1). In-Sight Publishing. 11(1).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 1, 2022.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (November 2022).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 1, 2022,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Tsimshian 1: Corey Moraes on Art and Family (1) [Internet]. 2022 Nov; 11(1). Available from:


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