NW-ACE & A-ACE Graduate
“When you get the entrepreneur mindset you become much more aware of new opportunities every day, plus it’s fun to build something from nothing”- Laurence Knowles
Laurence Knowles is a talented artist and entrepreneur from Haida Gwaii that specializes in stone and public art sculptures.
From a young age, Laurence was working in a variety of industries including fishing, trapping, mining, and logging. It wasn’t until later in life, Knowles started his career as a carver and stone sculptor. Laurence began carving at Kasan and the carving shed in Prince Rupert. He learned primarily through trial and error while working with harder stones, like granite and basalt, and then slowly refined his craft. While he was working in the shed, he carved and sculpted alongside many talented artists including, Lyle Campbell, Marcel Russ, Henry Green, and Ron Talec. Laurence expressed the carving shed was a “dynamic, creative center of artistic talent” and offered a great way to collaborate with other talented carvers. He also explained each of the carvers he worked with during his time in the carving shed had an influence on his work.
Laurence was forced to take time off of carving when he suffered from a loss of eyesight. During his break, Laurence worked in Northern Alberta until he was able to get eye surgery. Once he received surgery on both eyes, Laurence began carving again. Since he was still recovering and his eyesight had not fully come back yet, he relied on his sense of feeling more than sight to carve. He expresses he was “carving more or less blind”. Laurence also explained he could hear the perfect cut while he is carving and understands how the hard rocks want to be carved without even being able to see it.
Laurence moved back to Haida Gwaii, Old Masset, and his Haida ancestry became another major influence in the style of the art he created. Knowles explains his “stonework is big and heavy, strong and aggressive” which he related to the environment of the Northwest Coast. Knowles explained his artwork is too large to be in a home or gallery and belonged outside. He felt the carvings allow the rock to become its “own eco-system for insects, birds, moss, and plants”. The carved stones he creates connect back to nature with their Haida inspired design and outdoor location.
Laurence has created many pieces that are held in private collections and museums across British Columbia. Three of Laurence’s pieces are also on display to the general public in Whistler, BC. In 2005, the display started with a bear sculpture made from Basalt, and it was such a success with the locals, he was commissioned to create two more pieces. He then created and Medicine Man and Creek Woman, also made of Basalt, that are located along the Valley Trail in Meadow Park.
Laurence joined the Northwest ACE Program to help in the relaunch of his art career. Knowles expressed it was “a bit scary relaunching my art career, things have drastically changed in the last 10 years”. So, he thought the ACE program would help ease that fear by providing him with additional business skills and knowledge.
Laurence has dyslexia and dropped out of school at an early age. He felt he struggled with the computer skills section of the program and had to work extra hard to learn how to use them. Laurence expressed appreciation for program manager Cory Stevens, who offered help that allowed him to effectively use the computer systems and “make it work”.
Throughout the program, Laurence was surprised by the amount of information he was learning in such a short amount of time. Knowles found the best way to process and understand all the new information was to relate the new theories and tools to concepts he had a great deal of knowledge about, like commercial fishing. His ability to make these connections allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and apply them to his own business plan.
Advice Laurence has to those that are unsure about joining the program is no matter your education level or abilities “take the course, keep an open mind and have fun”.
We are honored to have the opportunity to work with Laurence as he continues on his journey as an entrepreneur and artist. We are excited to see what the future has in store for Laurence, to learn more about Laurence and his work as an artist, visit his website.
Laurence is a graduate of the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program. As of January 2020, 393 Indigenous Entrepreneurs have graduated from the award-winning ACE Program, which focuses on bridging indigenous culture with the key elements of entrepreneurship and business creation. The ACE Program is made possible through the collective efforts of our partnering regions, communities, institutions and faculty.