A member of the ‘Namgis First Nation, Shawn is a descendant of the Alfred, Hunt, Scow and Innis families. He also has blood ties to the Tlingit, Nuu-cha-nulth and Heiltsuk First Nations. Shawn’s late father, Gus (artist, musician, writer and outdoorsman) is Dutch and immigrated with his family to Canada from the Netherlands shortly after World War II.
Shawn began his training in the Victoria public school Native art program, with George Hunt Jr. and Victor Newman, both of whom are members of Shawn’s family. During this period, he was introduced to the culture and history of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other west coast First Nations. He learned design, painting and basic carving. Early in his career, Shawn had the opportunity to work under Tony Hunt Sr., Tony Hunt Jr., and John Livingston in the “Arts of the Raven” carving shed. Moving back to Alert Bay, he also learned jewellery making from Fah Ambers while continuing to study carving from Beau Dick and Wayne Alfred. Shawn has also worked with, and alongside, many of his peers and younger artists, some from other First Nations: “Good friends influence good art”.
For five years, Shawn was part of the carving program at the Royal B.C. Museum and in 2001 volunteered to work on the ITUSTO project, restoring the world’s tallest freestanding totem pole at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. Shawn’s desire to continuously refine his skills and knowledge is the driving force behind his art. Known for his generous spirit, Shawn has become a keeper of his First Nation’s rituals, knowledge and traditions, and is often called upon to help with community potlatches and projects. By giving back, Shawn honours those who shared their teachings with him.