Story

Art and Design Inspired
by the spirit of place

Canadian artist and designer, Sabina Hill, creates art, interiors, limited edition furniture and custom textiles, which merge the rich mythology of the Pacific Northwest Coast with a contemporary design aesthetic.

Born in Vancouver, BC, and descended from four generations of Pacific Coast Canadians, living between the forest and the sea, Sabina is inspired by her sense of place and tells a visual story through her innovative designs.

She spent part of her early childhood in Tahsis, BC, a remote area on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island that is rich in Native culture. Sabina was first introduced to Aboriginal art through her parents’ collection of Nuchatlaht baskets woven by a local First Nations woman. Captivated by their vibrant colours and motifs, they are now displayed in her home and are a reminder of the power of inspiration. As a young adult, she became interested in three dimensional and sculptural works, and completed her foundation year at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Sabina Hill

Above: Limited Edition Thunderbird Chair / Salmon Drum tables / Penthouse Interior, built-ins and artwork

Growing up, Sabina spent time at her family’s historic Yellow Point Lodge on Vancouver Island, exploring acres of pristine oceanfront. Her grandfather, Gerry Hill, built the lodge in the 1930s. Current owners, Richard and Sandi Hill, asked Sabina to design their Scout Point house, which was her first commission, and reaffirmed her belief that a site’s unique landscape is a rich source of inspiration.

Sabina holds degrees in environmental studies from the University of Manitoba and in architecture from the University of British Columbia. In 1993, she founded her multi-disciplinary studio with projects ranging from custom residential, interiors and renovations, to built-in furniture and landscape design.

Above: Scout Point House - Vancouver Island / Okanagan Lake House / West Vancouver renovation / Coal Harbour rooftop garden

She is deeply inspired by the natural world and the influence of First Nations people who have been expressing the spirit of the land through art for thousands of years. Her early place-based influences include architects, Arthur Erickson and Ron Thom, pioneers of the West Coast modern movement that embraced geographical and cultural context, and artists, Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt, whose paintings have included First Nations imagery and forms.

Above: Arthur Erickson, UBC Museum of Anthropology / Emily Carr "Zunoqua of the Cat Village" / Jack Shadbolt "Voices"

Seeking to create works with a distinctly Pacific Northwest Coast design aesthetic, Sabina began collaborating professionally with Aboriginal artists in 1998. These collaborations reflect an enduring legacy of exchange and cross-fertilization between artists. Her creations, presented through unique material combinations and leading edge technologies, bring the ceremonial into daily life and celebrate the convergence of two distinct design cultures. Dr. George Macdonald, former president of the Bill Reid Foundation and director of the Bill Reid Centre for Northwest Coast Art Studies at Simon Fraser University, hails her work as “demonstrating the next phase in the development of Northwest Coast art and design.”

Above: Dining Table Commission - Calgary / Gulf Island Interior and commissioned artwork / Coal Harbour Renovation with Art Installation

In her solo work, Sabina explores contemporary mythology through her personal mode of abstraction. Her complex tableau of organic designs expresses the language of modernism infused with a Pacific Northwest Coast regional character. With her background in relief printmaking and architecture, she has developed a keen understanding of positive and negative space, which are essential elements of Native art; she transforms these into solid and void in her 3-dimensional work.

Above: Console Commission - Brussels, Belgium / Limited Edition Swim Wall panel

Sabina is drawn to the symbolic mythology of the Northwest Coast art tradition, which reflects a shared connection to and a spiritual reverence for the natural world, depicted through animal motifs such as the whale, salmon, eagle, raven, wolf and frog. She has an appreciation for these designs, as well as the traditional objects in Native art with their emblematic and decorative features. Sabina integrates these organic forms into a rectilinear architectural framework, creating a fusion between these design elements in her multi-media artworks. Sabina’s signature style translates the visual language of the Northwest Coast art tradition into the laser-cut clarity of museum quality contemporary art, furniture and textiles.

Above: Private Commission - Vancouver / Limited Edition Eagle Wall Panel / Ovoid Coffee Table - Salmon trout's head

Her work is recognized nationally and internationally. It is in the permanent collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, and it has been commissioned by the Government of Canada for diplomatic premises abroad including Canada House High Commission in London, England, the Canadian Joint Delegation to NATO in Brussels, Belgium, the new Canadian consulate in Guangzhou, China, and the Official Residences in Berlin, Germany, and Barbados.

Above: Limited Edition Prow coffee table / Canada House Sign-in Table Commission, Gordon Campbell and Prince Harry - London, England

Sabina is currently building her home gallery and studio, which she designed for her waterfront property in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast of BC. This highly unique live-work space will include a well-appointed private guest suite, accommodating collectors who wish to live with her art in a truly immersive experience, observe her creative process, and collaborate on commissioned pieces.

Above: Coal Harbour Interior / Sign-in Table and Area Rug Commission - Berlin, Germany

Photo credits: John Watson, Barry Calhoun, Jamie Griffiths, Emma Peter