Virginia remembers as early as 5 years old, her grandparents Herbert and Agnes Cook instilled a curiosity of culture. They made sure to demonstrate traditional dances to their grandchildren when visiting their home. Her mother made sure to take she and her younger sisters to the Big House when there were potlatches so they would learn their traditional songs and dances. Their family moved away from Alert Bay when Virginia was five, but those memories always stayed with her. Her father was also very artistic, he carved and drew realistic portraits.
Later in life, as an adult, Virginia attended Kitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art. While there, she had two amazing instructors, Ken Mowatt and the late Vernon Stephens. She learned to make carving knives, create designs, and carve. Vernon was instrumental in her growth as an artist. She said,” He always nudged me to get to know stories, and research when we were creating design or carving.”
Virginia has a deep respect for the land, rivers, animals, and Mother Earth. All have been provided for to her in order to have a good life. The communal stories that were shared, are where she gets some of her inspiration when creating designs and carving.
She says,” These stories have life lessons, morals, humour, and teach of consequences.
When carving, each piece of wood is brought to life, as the wood is carved away. The grain becomes feathers, wrinkles, or textured fur. The wood is transformed into a character, using traditional form line and color. No two pieces are alike. Additional elements such as fur, cedar bark, feathers, abalone, and horsehair are selected to add character and unique features. At the age of 64, my family has grown. I am a mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great grandmother of three. My hope is that one day, my family will draw inspiration for who I have been as an artist, always learning, and continuing to carry on traditionally. It has been five years since I began learning the Gitksan language in earnest. It is never too late to learn, as long as you put your mind to it. I will always be grateful for those that have encouraged and inspired me along the way, for without them, I would not be who I am today.”