Kwakwaka'wakw artist Sandy Johnson grew up at Alert Bay and Gilford Island, Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation.
He was born in 1963 to Sam and Lena Johnson and can trace his ancestry to many tribes in the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.
Sandy attended school in Comox, New Westminster, Surrey, and Parksville. His father Sam was a carver who would spend much of his time in the carving shed. He remembers his father instructing him to pick up a knife and get busy carving. “Don’t be coming into my carving shop expecting to just watch me work.” At sixteen, Johnson began assisting his father with sanding and painting some of his carvings.
Artistic expression is strong in Sandy’s family, two of his brothers are also accomplished painters and carvers. His grandfather on his maternal side was Allan James, the well-known artist and Chief Councilor for Gwayasdums (Gilford Island).
Sandy sees himself as a predominantly self-taught carver. He's been putting the tools to the wood for over 13 years now. His favourite medium is Western Red Cedar but he also paints on canvas, works in silver and is well known for his smaller carvings that are complete miniatures of typical carved works like his Crooked Beak Dancer, Raven Mask and Hok Hok. These smaller pieces are inspired by the works of Willy Sewid and are fully interactive. If the dance mask is meant to move or open, the miniature that Sandy creates does so as well.
His Huk Huk and Crooked Beak masks can be used in the traditional ceremonies.