The Thunderbird Project

I want to share with you a project I will be working on over the next couple of months. It's called "Thunderbird" and it's a permanent installation at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa. I am excited and very honoured to be the Art Director of the installation. What's particularly special about this magnificent relief sculpture is that it will be a collaboration with you and anyone who supports the Wabano    Centre. Photo on 2016-03-03 at 16.05 #2 Together with Allison Fisher,  Director of Wabano, we have come up  with a woodlands inspired design that  represents the year of the Thunderbird.  The installation is a 3' x 8' relief sculpture  in polymer clay and wood. I'm holding a  maquette of the design in this photo and  below is another actual polymer clay  maquette. The  Thunderbird symbolizes  power and  provision, but also i  indomitable spirit and  transformation.

 The collaboration is a team effort between the Wabano staff, and  myself but also includes the general public and supporters of the  Wabano Centre. I will be teaching four art workshops at the  Wabano Centre, the dates and times are listed below. This is an  opportunity for you to participate in creating something beautiful  and a symbol of respect and support for Ottawa's Aboriginal  community. The cost is only $25. which includes the class and all s  supplies, a boxed lunch or dinner and a printed tutorial to take  home. If you enjoy participating in art nights or paint nites, this is a  great value and a great way to unwind, connect with friends and  have fun, all the while taking part in something spectacular. During  the workshop you will learn how to create a feather relief in  polymer clay in the colourful woodlands style. You will have the  opportunity to make at least two feathers, one to take home, the  other will become part of the art installation. Over 100 feathers will  be part of this wall sculpture! As a contributing artist your name  will be listed on the wall plaque as well as on all printed paper  merchandise. The installation will be officially introduced at the  "Igniting the Spirit" Gala, which takes place on June 21st. For  more information on the Gala please visit  gala-2016/

The workshops will take place at the Wabano Centre, located at 299 Montreal Road in Ottawa. Join us and be part of this inspiring art collaboration. To reserve your spot in one of the workshops please email me directly at 

Available Dates:

Tuesday April 12 - 6pm to 9pm

Saturday, April 16 - 1pm to 4pm

Tuesday, April 19 - 6pm to 9pm

Saturday, April 23 - 1pm to 4pm


The meaning of the Thunderbird as a Native American symbol varies according to the tribe and geographic location.

“Among the tribes of the Great Lakes, the Indians recognized supernatural spirits (Manitos) in all physical phenomena, animals, trees, rocks, or cosmic forces. Some dwelt in the sky, some on earth, underground, or underwater; some were helpful and others malevolent, such as ghosts, underwater monsters and cannibal ice giants (Windigos), and spirits were placated through prayers. Over all was a paramount deity, Kitchi-Manito, although this concept may be the result of Christian influence. Of major importance were the Sun, Moon, the Four Winds, the Four Directions, Thunder, and Lightning. Two great Manitos, the Thunderbird and the Underwater Panther, are dominant in Great Lakes mythology. The Thunderbirds were a class of spirits associated both with war, and with rain to nurture crops.” (Excerpt from North American Indian Tribes of the Great Lakes by Michael Johnson)

Thunderbirds are the rulers of all airborne species. These manitos could bestow many blessings on human beings including success in war.  Thunder and lightning were created by the flashing of their eyes and the flapping of their wings, bringing the rain that made the earth fertile. Besides power and provision, other symbolic Thunderbird meanings include indomitable spirit and transformation.