Brian Wick’s philosophy is simple, whether you’re in a wheelchair or walking around on two feet, overcoming challenges is more mental than anything else.
Today you’ll find Brian crafting gold and jewellery for patrons in Price Rupert and around the globe from his bright-red yellow-tinted shop on 3rd Ave.
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, his family plied their trade as shipwrights by winter and commercial fishers in the summers. By age seven, Brian was sailing the waters of the Northwest reeling in catches with his three older brothers half the year while working with his hands in the shop with his father the other half.
Back in the day, when fishing was the streaming lifeblood of Prince Rupert, Brian recalled how boats from all over the province lined the shores of the region.
“I don’t know if you can imagine how many there were,” Brian said.
Gillnetters and fishing vessels from the Skeena and Nass rivers and boats from as far down as Vancouver filled every dock in and around the city, he said.
His father foresaw the end of the shipbuilding era in the city, so Brian decided to follow in the other half of his family’s footsteps fishing. After graduating high school, Brian entered the fishing industry, where he met his wife, Melony. One year later, the two welcomed the birth of their one and only daughter, Tobie.
It was at the age of 21 when his life changed direction forever.
Driving back home after a trip to Vancouver with friends, Brian was involved in a significant car accident.
“It was pretty scary,” he recalled.
Their vehicle was unable to make a sharp turn. They went off the road and rolled down a ditch. One friend was thrown out the car’s back window, the other was pinned in his seat. While he doesn’t remember the whole incident, he knows he flew out of his seat and landed on his back on top of the gear shift. From that moment, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Doctors told him his back was broken. Vertebrae were dislocated, and there was permanent spinal cord damage.
“The good thing was that nobody died,” he said.
During his six months of physical rehabilitation, Brian gained perspective of his situation. He learned to focus on the positives rather than the negatives in any situation.
“In rehab, you take a good look around. You see what could have been, and it was a heck of a lot worse than what it [actually] was. You look around and see some people, and you go, ‘I’m sure glad that’s not me,” he said. “You’re going to see [stuff] that you don’t want to see. I thought — holy crap, I got away lucky.”
Brian looked at the good side of life where he had a wife and an 18-month-old child that he was able to go back home and continue living.
When he returned to Prince Rupert, Brian began to work at an art store owned by his wife’s parents, where he was influenced by First Nations’ artwork and the Indigenous craftspersons to explore.
One artist in particular from Haida Gwaii, Nelson Cross, inspired him to pursue goldsmithing.
“He was just an interesting guy, and I liked seeing what he was doing and what he was making,” Brian said. “You don’t have to walk around to do it. So, I tried to see how far it would go.”
With experienced hands after working in shipbuilding with his father, Brian saw a way to transition into the goldsmithing trade.
To do so, Brian flew to Santa Monica, California, where he attended a six-month course at the Gemological Institute of America.
Upon returning home, he picked up a job as a goldsmith in a shop downtown. Two years after working for someone else, Brian decided to venture out and start his own business with a partner, Dan Harris. The two founded Harris & Wick Goldsmiths.
Brian has always had an unperturbed attitude about his disability. It’s simply not something he thinks about when making decisions, such as when he started the business.
“I’ve always thought I can do pretty much anything I want — other than walk up the stairs,” he said. “You can’t get too wrapped up in thinking what it’s going to be like in 40 years because that means you’re never going to live it today and have fun right now.”
In his more than 40 years in a wheelchair, Brian has had a lot of fun and achieved many things others dream of, such as being a multi-medal athlete.
In 1986, the BC Winter Games were hosted in Terrace, and Brian took the chance to participate by putting together a basketball team. Their team organized practices in the run-up to the games, where they ultimately won bronze.
He has even won a medal in swimming. Though he doesn’t compete anymore, you’ll still catch Brian at the aquatic centre on any given week.
Before his accident, Brian was also an avid skier, and it was something he missed out on due to his injuries. It was in 1990 when he was introduced to monoski.
A monoski, also known as a sit-ski, is a moulded seat atop of a single widened ski paired with two forearm crutches, called outriggers, with smaller short skis at their ends.
The learning curve for the sport is laughably steep and took a toll on his body. It left him unable to move, Brian said. However, he was also able to ski again for the first time in decades.
“You’re pretty excited when it happens,” he said.
The sport was absolutely for him, and it didn’t take long before he made another appearance at the BC Winter Games, this time in the Comox Valley, in 1995.
Competing in the downhill, Brian won two gold medals.
“I just thought holy [crap], this is unbelievable. This is as close to getting that rush and the adrenaline. That’s what skiing is about,” he said.
Now with his competitive days behind him, you’ll find Brian most days at his shop or out on the water fishing.
With his wealth of life experiences, Brian has learned what’s most important in life.
“Family and friends — best thing you can ever have. It doesn’t matter about anything else. If you got that, you got more than most people.”
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