The Art All around Us

April 18, 2014

When VFA’s facilities consultants are out in the field, many times they draw inspiration from their surroundings. VFA’s Alisa Nielsen has turned her Canadian aboriginal background into beautiful pieces of art. Check them out below with some insight into Alisa’s inspiration and learn more about an artist among us!


Salmon Run Ceremonial Drum – This eagle design is based on my visit to the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in BC. Although there are numerous bald and golden eagles there, this particular eagle seemed to follow me around the island! He would fly alongside my vehicle while I drove and if I stopped, he would perch himself in a tree or the shore very near me. Each time I would go to take his picture, he would either take off (too fast to get him in flight) or turn around or lift his wing (he even mooned me once). After a few days of this behavior and as I had to leave, I had nearly given up and had the camera put away. Then he showed again and soared directly over my head, doing circles. So I took out my camera and he circled enough to let me take a picture of him in flight! Hence the design was born! The overall design is based on a worn drum skin whose design might have been created for a traditional salmon run opening ceremony.

alisa-nielsen-Motherhood-Western Painted-Turtles

Motherhood – Western Painted Turtles: This turtle design is based on a request from a client to design him a turtle platter. My initial reaction was that I had never seen a Ksan turtle design and it might be because there aren’t turtles on the Skeena River in BC. But – after some research, I discovered that the Western Painted Turtle is a fresh water turtle that is on the extinct list in this region. After some reflection, I created my turtle design. Since, I\’ve been told but other Aboriginal peoples in the East that turtles are sacred and represent the Turtle Island and that further, I somehow created my design with the correct number of design elements! Funny how things work out…


Butterfly Clamshell Platter – My designs are generally based on travel (physical or mental) and experiences. My Nisga’a Butterfly for instance, seemed to be the only one of its nature and colour and it followed me through the Nisga’a lands for two days. I thought it odd as I was mostly driving. Every time I tried to take its picture, it would somehow take flight and move quicker than I! I discussed this with my bed and breakfast hosts and they told me – he’s speaking to you – you need to design him. And then, after visiting the falls, the butterfly was flying about again and I told it, well then, stop so I can take your picture! And it did… landed right at my feet on the pavement and waited! And so I designed my butterfly.


Ode to Bentbox – This particular design represents my spirit world and my circle of life – the wolf (my clan) being visited by various birds (spirits) at different times in my life to bring me messages and direct my path or decisions.

Alisa Nielsen

About the Artist

Alisa Nielsen is an architectural assessor for VFA. She is also a registered Interior Designer who has sought a creative outlet that reunites her with her ancestors.  Although born and raised in Vancouver, BC, her roots are in Kispiox, a Gitxsan and Carrier Tribe originating in the Hazleton, BC area. She is from the Wolf House (Wilp Lax Gibuu). Traditional items of trade that represented wealth and prosperity were items containing copper and abalone.  In a modernistic approach to incorporating these elements in her artwork, Alisa is working with copper inlays in her glass works and Raku glazes in her pottery pieces. Her work is a unique blend and balance of glasswork and pottery inspired and informed by her Gitxsan and Carrier heritage.  Currently residing in Summerland, BC, she enjoys sharing traditional Ksan imagery while playing with form and function. You can learn more about Alisa’s art and inspiration by checking out her website

Note: Alisa is part of VFA’s facilities consulting team that provides facility assessment services. VFA has many clients in Canada and you can learn more about them and our Canadian team by visiting the VFA Canada page.



3 Responses to “The Art All around Us”

  1. Susan Anson says:

    Alisa, I didn’t know that you had such amazing hidden talents! Such a wonderful tribute to your heritage and beautiful pieces to admire. Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. Steve Geary says:

    Hi Alisa ! I thoroughly enjoyed viewing your artwork. It is wonderful to view and read your stories of inspiration. So talented are you as well as in harmony with nature. Bravo, your friend, Steve.

  3. Robert Dodd says:

    Nice presentation Alisa and nice work. I’m happy that you have contributed to the VFA circle of arts.

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