Sculptor Warren Wenzel Chisels New Life Into Stone and Wood

Sculptor Warren Wenzel Chisels New Life Into Stone and Wood

"Goalie"

We left the immaculate Molgat Park campground at Sainte Rose du Lac, Manitoba heading (what we thought was) east to meet up with and interview sculptor Warren Wenzel in Gimli. We heard that it was a pretty drive heading through The Narrows, gliding over the only bridge to traverse the shimmering waters of Lake Manitoba. It’s really too bad then that I messed up on directions and took a more circuitous route; south to Portage la Prairie, then east to Winnipeg, and then finally north to Gimli. Sigh…maybe next time. After knocking on Warren’s door and phoning him with no answer we were getting a little worried that our longer than expected excursion here would all be for naught. But then he emerged from where we should have guessed he would be, his garage studio out back where the magic of his wood and stone sculptures come to life.

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Warren has always been active in the arts in one way or another; his college courses leading him to dabble in cement and wood sculptures as well as abstract pieces in plexiglass. Working with wood though has always interested him, and so in 2000 when a home developer had left behind a landscape tie at a house he and his wife Denise were building, he decided to create his first chainsaw sculpture. His subject was a human sized dragon made up of 150 lbs of wood with fibreglass for the wings. It was certainly an ambitious endeavour for his first one and Warren notes that it was so big and heavy that he wound up gifting it to some friends rather than move it to Manitoba. The dragon is now resting comfortably in St. Albert, Alberta.

Wooden Bear

Wooden Bear

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Warren’s wife has made it a yearly tradition of giving him a different gift at Christmas that has something to do with art. So it wasn’t until Denise and her sister collaborated on some stone, hammers and chisels as his gift one year that his love for sculpting stone took off, and Warren has been carving it ever since for the past sixteen years. What he loves about working with the wood and stone is that once he has transformed the piece it is no longer just wood or stone, it has another identity that not only has a part of him in it, but also whatever the subject matter and the characteristics of who the piece is being designed for. Warren loves the creation process the most, taking away the chunks and then the fine bits to finally reveal what the piece of stone or wood was meant to be.

"Coyote Trickster"

“Coyote Trickster”

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Most of the time when Corinne asks an artist what their most difficult piece was, the response is usually associated with a technical aspect of the creation process. When she asked Warren though the question choked him up a bit. His wooden piece titled “Monk” was requested by his son. Warren initially thought of a portly shaped Buddha, but what his son had in mind was the likeness of a slender monk. As it got closer to completion his son said that the monk needed some prayer beads. Unfortunately his son passed away shortly before the piece was completed, and it wasn’t until Warren found the prayer beads amongst his son’s things that he then draped them in the monk’s hands, completing the piece. The “Monk”, sitting in tranquil meditation, exudes a serenity and spirituality to those that see him in Warren’s art tours. They also see the monk’s wooden “scars” where the wood did not lend itself to a perfect human form, and to Warren these are symbolic of the flaws and vulnerabilities of humanity.

"Monk" - wood

“Monk”

Most of Warren’s work is done by commission from his corporate sponsor, where they will give him a list of retiring members and then he will endeavour to create a unique retirement gift for them. He will find out details about the member, pick an appropriate stone to use, and design a sculpture that would best reflect the personality and characteristics of that person.

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A project that he hopes to include in his portfolio one day is a monumental piece. An idea he has is for the town of Stonewall, Manitoba which is known for its limestone quarries. He wants to use a large chunk of limestone from Stonewall to create a 6 1/2 foot hockey goalie and place it in front of their town arena. Anyone who is familiar with hockey knows that a “stonewall” is another term for a goalie (Warren is one himself). What could be a more fitting monument to the town of Stonewall and its limestone legacy than to have an enduring piece, a goalie in limestone, sculpted by a goalie?

Enjoy our interview with Warren and don’t be shy about sharing his story and work on social media and email. We also appreciate comments.

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

Get Wildcrafting with Mixed Media Artist Don Elzer

"Greystokes Cottonwoods"

“Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting and using wild materials for food, medicine, construction, art and craft. Whether it’s a wild botanical like devils club, shed antlers, pine cones or mushrooms, the gathering of found materials provides wildcrafters a means to generate a living direct from nature.” ~Don Elzer~

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest

The above quote from Don Elzer therein lies the first clue to the life he leads. It is one of stewardship to the lands he roams, loves and protects, collecting materials for his own use and commerce but like all healthy relationships his connection to the Earth is one of give and take, and then give some more. Through permaculture principles he advocates for, and engages in responsible harvesting practices of plant species; tread lightly, take only what you need, replenish and propagate, then repeat.

"The Prophecy" - full and detail

“The Prophecy” – full and detail

We met up with mixed media artist Don Elzer at his Wildcraft Forest Wild Tea Plantation thirty minutes east of Vernon along Highway 6 in the Monashee region of British Columbia. We had already been following Don’s initiatives on Facebook for quite awhile now, but when we sat down to chat with him we were amazed by all of the wildcrafting irons that he had in the fire.

"Tree Whisper" and "The Tone"

“Tree Whisper” and “The Tone”

Don’s art work is one extension of his wildcrafting. Found materials such as antlers, birch bark, feathers and naturally harvested clay are just a few items that lend themselves to Don’s sculptures in symbolic, spiritual and storied interpretations. His paintings may be a mix of acrylic paint, pastels and crayons which seems to create an almost 3d effect through the contrast of glossy and matte finishes. They depict memorable scenes, places once been and of stories yet to unfold.

"Monashee Moon #1"

“Monashee Moon #1”

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If wildcrafting is the hub of Don Elzer’s wheel of life, then the many spokes borne from that are not only his art work, but also initiatives such as:

-Teaching Permaculture Design and Wildcrafting Courses at his Wildcraft Forest.
-Offering wild tea blends, herbs and potions at the Wildcraft Forest Apothecaeri.
-Social enterprise through his Watershed Intelligence Network.
– The Shelter Revolution. Tiny House building, sales and workshops with off-the-grid applications.
Author and Publisher

Don may wear many hats but through all of these labours of love lies a common thread: a deep connection, appreciation and relationship to nature.

"Dreams of the New Sacred Land"

“Dreams of the New Sacred Land”

So you see, it matters not whether you are looking to appreciate nature through a sculpture, a painting, a soothing and medicinal tea, or a hands-on practical education in wildcrafting to further your stewardship on Earth, a visit to Don Elzer’s Wildcraft Forest will awaken your senses.

Enjoy our interview with Don Elzer as you peruse his art work! Comments and sharing through social media and email are encouraged and welcome!

Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Fibre Artist Ann Harmer Puts Another Feather in the Mushroom Cap

Lobster Mushroom

The more I learn about mushrooms the more I love them! Fortunately for Gary and I our trip to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia would lead us to the doorstep of fibre artist and mushroomist Ann Harmer and her world of the magnificent mushroom. Ann lives with her husband Rick and their two friendly pooches on a parcel of land near Katherine Lake where we had camped the night before. They moved from Burnaby about a decade ago after falling in love with the area. Rick says it was Katherine Lake that pulled them there. Outside their door is a rainforest which harbours all the right conditions for mushroom life. Before moving to this area, Ann had decided she wanted to learn all about mushrooms not realizing this endeavour would lead her into a creative realm using the humble fungi.

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

Ann Harmer Wearing One of Her Crocheted Scarves Coloured with Various Mushroom Dyes

I was curious to find out if using the mushroom to make dyes was some sort of ancient art form. As Ann explained it only began when a woman in California was creating a dyepot out of flowers, and merely out of curiosity happened to throw in some little yellow mushrooms. It turns out she got a beautiful yellow dye and the rest is history. Now people all over the world forage for pigment mushrooms. They even get together once every two years for a pigment mushroom symposium to discuss all things fungi.

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

Range of Colours From Pigment Mushrooms

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Typical mushroom hunting season on the coast begins in July and goes into November. During that time Ann can be found out in the forest with her two dogs on the hunt for pigment mushrooms. Only a fraction of all mushroom species contain a pigment that is suitable for dyeing. I must say I was astounded at the colour palette; everything from earthy browns and greens to pinks, blues, and orange hues. Most of the mushrooms Ann hunts for are not edible but there is the lobster mushroom that she and Rick share. The lobster is a deep orange colour on the outside with a white fleshy inside. Ann peels the outside for her colour palette and Rick uses the tasty inside for his palate.

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Beautiful Earthy Tones on Handspun Wool Art Yarn

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Mushroom Paper Bowls

Some of Ann’s mushroom hunting involves locating a species that contains chitin. Chitin is the substance that helps to create the hard shell for arthropods such as insects, lobsters, and spiders. In the case of the mushroom, Ann can make a strong paper-like fibre which she turns into bowls, beads for jewellery and sculpture pieces such as hats and shoes (future project).

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

Turkey Tail Pendant and Mushroom Paper Beads

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The humble mushroom is an incredibly versatile species. It has been used in bioremediation as well as making a material that could replace plastic one day and not to mention they are wonderful to eat. And now as we have learned, it earns a noble place in the world of the visual arts. Before we left Ann and Rick that day we spent some time chatting over a cup of Earl Grey tea and some Candy Cap shortbread cookies that Ann had made. Candy Caps are a mushroom that taste and smell a bit like maple syrup. Even Gary couldn’t resist them!

To find out more about Ann Harmer please click here to get to her website.

Join us as Ann talks about the process of using mushrooms as dyes. We always love your comments and please help us spread the word about Ann on social media and through email. Thanks!

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

Kristin Anderson’s Flowers are Blooming Beautiful

It’s finally here! After the lengthy endurance of winter’s icy grip and with the arrival of the first day of spring, we move forward with great relief toward warmer temperatures. The palette of nature transforms itself from stark white to a rainbow of colours as the blossoms and flowers pop their heads up to greet the warmer sun and begin the celebration of a renewed cycle of life. For many people the arrival of flowers brings great joy. In droves we head to the garden centre to stuff our trunks with annuals and perennials to build little flower communities in our gardens. For the remainder of the warm months we find our senses become drenched in the colour and fragrance of the happy blooms. What if you were the kind of person who, in the company of flowers felt like your head was about to explode? Many people solve the problem by using antihistamines. We know of one unfortunate sufferer of flower allergies who found an innovative and fun way to enjoy their beauty without the irritating consequences. Meet Kristin Anderson, a polymer clay artist from St. Albert, Alberta.

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Kristin loves flowers but unfortunately they don’t love her. Ironically, her mom Flora is a florist and she would give Kristin beautiful arrangements for her birthday but sadly she couldn’t have them in her house. Then one day Kristin decided that a big old tree in their front yard had to go. It was blocking all the natural light into their home so Kristin’s intent was to replace it with a Japanese Cherry Blossom tree. To her disappointment, she discovered that Alberta doesn’t have the climate to support this type of tree. Determined to have a Japanese Cherry Blossom in her life she decided to sculpt one, and so began her journey into creating three dimensional wall art with flowers being the main focus.

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The need to have this particular tree in her life led Kristin into a creative endeavour that she never imagined would bring her to where she is today. She found that she had an affinity for the polymer clay, and within six months her hobby found it’s way onto the walls of friends, then onto the walls of admirers, and then a solo exhibition at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. She hasn’t looked back and at times finds it hard to keep up. She sold ten of her twelve pieces at the exhibition and acquired fifteen commissions from that show. I find this truly encouraging from the perspective of people who would like to step into a creative realm as well as the enthusiasm shown by people buying art from artists.

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Art and flowers should be something that all people can enjoy including those that are physically impaired in some way. Kristin knows this all too well. Her allergies prevented her from enjoying flowers but at the same time that affliction was also the catalyst to a new art passion. In turn, this enabled her to share both her art and flowers with a lady who is visually impaired. When we were visiting Kristin she was in the process of finishing up a piece for her. Kristin’s goal was to make a durable orchid so that it could be admired and appreciated through her touch. What a wonderful way to bring visual art to a tactile world!

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Through an odd twist of fate, Kristin followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a polymer clay florist. Her flower creations are arranged on canvas and placed in the appropriate frame. The frame is the vase where each bouquet remains everlasting. Long stem roses are deserving of a crystal vase or an ornate frame while poppies are better suited in something more demure; either way Kristin seems to have a talent for cultivating beautiful blooms in her oven.

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I have to admit, I am not a cut flower person. It is not that I don’t enjoy their beauty but I am pragmatic about it. It makes no sense to me to spend money on something that comes up short lived on the enjoyment meter. I would rather they stay in the ground where I can enjoy them for a much longer time. Having said that I don’t judge people who do like a vase on the table. However, the next time you want to buy your sweetie some cut flowers consider this; Kristin’s blooms will last a lifetime and maybe even for generations; they are always beautiful; their petals never fall off or fade; they brighten up a space even in the middle of winter and they can always remind that significant someone of a moment in time when they received that special bouquet.

Please join us as Kristin talks more about her creative passion. Also, we love comments and appreciate it if you share Kristin’s story on social media and through e-mail. Thank you.

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Donald Watt Creates Frozen and Fired Sculptures

Team Yukon Canada wins first place at the International Carnaval de Quebec 2014 including Public Choice and Volunteer Choice Awards

What does it mean to follow your dreams? For Whitehorse, Yukon snow carver and sculptor Donald Watt it started at age ten, wishing someday to carve snow at the famous Quebec Winter Carnival. He recalls as a young boy watching the promo film for the Carnival on television with his father and proclaiming his aspirations. His father’s reply was that he was capable of doing anything he wanted. That stuck with him, and when Quebec invited Yukon to form a team for its national sculpture competition, he jumped at the chance. Donald not only lived his dream of carving in Quebec but has also seen victory as captain of Team Yukon, winning numerous times at the National and International Championships. Sadly, his father never got to see him carve in Quebec but Donald always pays homage to him by building an inukshuk from the initial chunks of snow removed as the carving begins to take shape. His father’s presence is now with him at every event watching him carve. Now, with over 30 years of carving, numerous awards from around the world and doing 6-8 carvings per year, that adds up to a lot of carvings, a lot of experience, and a testament to the power of his passion.

Donald Watt

Donald Watt

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture - Quebec 2013

Team Yukon Canadian Championship Sculpture – Quebec 2013

Snow carving is unlike any other art form; its closest relatives being ice and sand carving. It is a medium that requires a great deal of planning because it is not only dependent upon ones carving skills, but the carver must adhere to the laws of physics and nature. With a starting block of snow typically weighing 20-40 tons, it is not uncommon for a suspended portion of snow to weigh a ton or more. So if the structural design pushes load-bearing limits, combined with challenging weather conditions such as rain, the sculpture could collapse and end up in a pile before it is even judged. Other considerations are working against the clock as well as observing the criteria that the judges are looking for. These include creativity and artistic merit, technical difficulties as well as adherence to the original design. The appreciation and awe of a completed snow sculpture is fleeting; a live in the moment type of art work that not long after leaves its legacy in the photographs, memories and a marred footprint of where it once stood.

1st Place - San Vigilio, Italy 2013

1st Place – San Vigilio, Italy 2013

2nd Place - San Candido, Italy 2013

2nd Place – San Candido, Italy 2013

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The process for completing a sculpture is always a team effort, and each team mate will lend their strengths to complement the whole. The 2014 World Tour team for Yukon is comprised of Donald, Michael Lane and Ken Anderson. Donald is the three dimensional specialist and will guide the team in the initial stages to taking away the major chunks and getting the sculpture to an impressionistic stage. Michael is the idea guy and detailed carver who will advise on the fine particulars, and Ken is a skilled first nations carver that will also lend the knowledge and detail required for the traditional northern and west coast first nations themes.

Breckenridge, USA 2013

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When he isn’t carving snow Donald is still active in the arts. Formally trained in sculpture and printmaking, he enjoys helping out with three dimensional design; building and designing sets for the local theater groups as well as hiring himself out to the art department to design sets for movies that are filmed in the area. He also creates clay sculptures that he refers to as “fairies with attitude.” These aren’t your cutesy, pixie-like Tinkerbell fairies mind you; these have a personality all their own. Donald says that the idea for these fairies came from his Irish grandmother. She would always say, “Donald, you don’t go in the back of the garden because that’s where the fairies live, and they’re not always nice!” So he decided to create these not-so-friendly looking fairies and give them some chutzpah. Why do people connect with Donald’s fairies? Maybe they represent nonconformity; a rebellious free-spirit that doesn’t care what people think of them or how they look. Maybe they depict the balance between the dark and the light; good and bad. Or, maybe they’re just a whole lot of fun!

The Lady's Not For Sale

The Lady’s Not For Sale

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For many artists there is the piéce de résistance that lingers in the back of their mind; the ultimate work or challenge that pushes them to their outer limit. Having traveled the world carving snow sculptures Donald’s ultimate vision now is to go to Antarctica to carve the Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen expeditions. He wants to do a carving at Scott’s Antarctica landing spot, showing him leaving for the South Pole heavily laden with all of his supplies. Then he will fly to the South Pole and do another carving showing Amundsen’s arrival there with his sled dogs and planting the Norwegian flag, the first expedition to do so and beating Scott by thirty-four days. It is an enormous undertaking; requiring a lot of planning, permissions, safety logistics and funding, but having seen the journey and accomplishments of a wide-eyed young boy to where he is today, we don’t doubt that Donald Watt can make it happen. Keep following the magnificent snow sculptures of Donald and his Team Yukon through his linked website Snowcarver.ca… and maybe leave a little room on your nightstand for a fairy to watch over you.

Learn more about the art and science of snow sculpture during our interview with Donald Watt, and we always welcome Comments and Sharing on social media:

Shelley Hakonson Turns Art On Its Ear

Shelley Hakonson Turns Art On Its Ear

“Lucille's chameleon-like behaviour mystified her friends, she was never the same way twice.”

When we first arrived in Dawson City, Yukon on September 19 it was cold and snowing. Unfortunately we had just fried our electric heater the night before and had no choice but to find a store to purchase a new one. I was expecting to have to rob the nearest bank in order to pay for it but surprisingly the price was reasonable. We settled in for a cozy evening in Arty with anticipation of meeting visual mixed media artist Shelley Hakonson the next day. As I prefer to do with all the artists we interview, I went looking for some information about Shelley so I could come up with my own unique never-been-asked-before questions. I perused through her website, www.shelleyhakonson.com and found it to be most intriguing. Interestingly enough, after looking at Shelley’s work and reading about her, I thought I was headed into a deep philosophical journey and pictured myself way over my head in Shelley’s art arena. As I would come to find out my assumptions were unfounded.

Shelley in front of one of her hand-stitched pieces

Shelley in front of one of her hand-stitched pieces

Part of the Heart Series - "The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts....``

Part of the Heart Series – “The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts….“

More from the Heart Series. Click the thumbnail for a larger image and caption.

Dawson City is saturated with the past; clay roads, wooden board walks, surrounding gold mines and signs of the once bustling gold rush town lingering all around. It is basically open in the summer and closed in the winter. The mines shut down, tourists have retreated home, most merchants close up and the locals gather at Bombay Peggy’s (a former brothel) for one last pint or two before the great migration, usually to some place warm. Shelley and her husband Greg participate in this exodus every year, traveling to places such as Russia and Italy. She packs along a sketchpad and notebook and as they travel gathers her inspiration for the following year’s upcoming pieces.

Part of the Zoomorphic Series - “Since Chuck got the big promotion, he's been the Cock of the Walk", said Bob enviously... "but just wait until he finds out about that wife of his...”

Part of the Zoomorphic Series – “Since Chuck got the big promotion, he’s been the Cock of the Walk”, said Bob enviously… “but just wait until he finds out about that wife of his…”

From the Zoomorphic Series. Click the thumbnail for a larger image and caption.

What do Gary Larson of The Far Side fame and Indiana Jones have in common? Shelley Hakonson, of course! Shelley’s interests are far reaching and a bit on the far side one might say. She is an avid reader and many of her ideas come from the English language. Her love of words, phrases and idioms are the subject of most of her work. For example, phrases become images and images become her art. In her Zoomorphics series she has taken a phrase like “fish out of water” and painted the body of a human with the head of the animal in reference. In this case her waggish imagination conjured up a woman’s body with a fish head posing awkwardly in her dress and high heels. Although the painting might leave you scratching your head, Shelley provides us with a little more insight into where this oddity might have come from by giving us clues with an accompanying one liner caption. The rest of the story, she says, is for us to figure out however we like. It is her hope that the viewer will have fun and share in some of her lightheartedness.

Titled - Raven Wife

Titled – Raven Wife

From the Artefact Series. Click thumbnail for a larger image.

Shelley is also an ardent lover of different cultures and the mystery and intrigue that surrounds them. Before she became an acrylic painter much of what she did was mixed media textile art. When you walk into her home there are remnants of these pieces all around such as the Mongol Shaman Bag and the alien spacesuit pulled from a burning rubbish bin near Roswell and they all have a story associated with them. What is incredible is that her work is all hand stitched and is so intricate and detailed that some of the Artefacts, as she calls them, have fooled people into thinking that she and Greg had engaged in some archaeological discovery during their travels and brought back real artifacts. Remarkably, it is all Shelley; she finds something that interests her, does some research on the subject and then sets out to create her interpretation of it. Although based on facts, Shelley says she allows herself a liberal amount of creative freedom.

Titled - Drowning

Titled – Drowning

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Demeter from the Sacred and Profane Series

Demeter from the Sacred and Profane Series

The imagination and creativity of Shelley’s work is endless. On the one hand she enjoys making people smile and laugh at her witty high jinks with preposterous portraits of common phrases and idioms we can all relate to, and on the other hand some of her work is passionately serious. There are many things in life that need to be brought to our attention and make us think. We are all inquisitive by nature and I believe Shelley really knows how to access that curiosity. She certainly did that for me.

Be sure to get to know Shelley as she shares with us her fun loving spirit expressed through her art. We love comments and please help us spread the word about Shelley by sharing/liking on social media. Thank you!

Life is Art for James Kirby

Life is Art for James Kirby

Family

In our search for artists to interview we have used various means to track them down ranging from emailing art organizations asking for assistance, emailing the artists directly, and even just riding into town and asking at the library, town office or people on the street who they might know. It gets a little tricky though when an artist is more reclusive; not usually engaging or paying attention to the ongoing banter of the various media sources. It was with a bit of luck then that Whitehorse artist James Carman Kirby of Wulvzwerx Arts decided, for whatever reason, to open one of those emails and answer our call to artists.

James at work

James at work

Driving up to James’ home and studio, the exterior looked like any other framed structure except that once inside the building the uniqueness of his abode reflected that of the man himself. Originally staying in a small, vintage travel trailer and having his workshop and studio beside it, he decided to join the two; building and framing the house around the trailer and encasing it as part of the interior decor. The effect is both quaint and symbolic; the travel trailer serving not only as both functionally decorative and as a conversation piece, but also retains memories of a time and place in his journey through life. Therein lies the first clue, revealing a man who is not one to adopt mainstream thinking and who walks to the beat of his own drum.

TshTsh Pectoral

TshTsh Pectoral

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James believes that everything about life is art; that the many facets of life such as raising children, building a home, the means by which we sustain ourselves, and how we engage humans and other life forms is all part of our creative being. He notes that if we treat life as art then it will become that much more satisfying and we will eventually create something very special. James’ art is a reflection of his life’s journeys, and as his life evolved into different stages for various reasons, so did the artwork that manifested from his hands. James chooses to live his life through individualism rather than conformity, and realizes the power of free thinking as his creative path.

Fire Ant Ring

Fire Ant Ring

As varied as his life has been, James’ art has taken him from painting, to stained glass, to now sculpture and jewellery. He also moved back to the Yukon from Vancouver Island to open a book store, and spent eight years as the largest bookseller of esoteric cult books in Canada. This last venture was at a time when James wanted to create a new culture for Whitehorse and shake things up a bit. He wanted to give people a chance to step out of their comfort zone and learn about other cultural, spiritual and philosophical teachings.

Feral Anima

Feral Anima

Although he is open to all ideas and is just starting to work on his own designs, his jewellery and sculpture creations primarily follow a particular niche. His jewellery focuses on talismans and amulets but his knowledge of western esoteric cultures and world religions goes into all of his artwork. James’ inner creation cannot help but extend to his artwork, where his curiosity for the foundations of his work impels him to research, source and manufacture his own materials as well as wanting to know what the process is; how things were made, why they were made and what sorts of materials were used. Whether quarrying the stone he is about to carve or learning the history of stained glass and how it was made, James’ foray into any creative endeavour always means being involved in all aspects of it. This can be no more true than in his jewellery making, where he ethically sources his own gemstones, does all his own castings, makes his own metal sheet and cuts his own wire. James notes that it is very much alchemy for him, having to know the process and then being able to apply it with skill.

Check out our interview with James below and feel free to share on social media and leave a comment:

A Moment in Time with Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

A Moment in Time with Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Swimming Caribou by Sandra Grace Storey

Our trip to the Yukon was certainly made pleasurable by the many talented and personable artists we met, but was also heightened by the expectation of glimpsing some of its local wildlife; possibly a wolf, a grizzly bear, or even that native northern ungulate, the caribou. What is the excitement, the awe, the breath quickly drawn in that we feel as we become aware of each others presence? Is there a bond or commonality that we humans share with these beasts? Are there subtle communications between us borne from ancient interactions with one another? What messages and stories are being sent to us that warrant reflection, and future action? Clay sculptor Sandra Grace Storey shares with us her exploration into some of these questions through her narrative art work.

Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Sculptor Sandra Grace Storey

Born and raised in the Yukon, Sandra has always had a connection to nature and its wild inhabitants. She notes that encounters with wildlife and meeting them eye to eye is a humbling experience and always invokes a feeling of wonder and awe. It is also a world that differs greatly from her early childhood when she suffered from asthma and was confined to an oxygen tent for great lengths of time. It was a sensory deprived environment that dissociated Sandra from the “outside” world. There was not much else for her to do but read to pass the time and so she indulged in tales of folklore, fables and Greek mythology. Ironically it was reading about these stories that was a catalyst to her current passion for exploring, creating stories and mythologizing her clay sculptures.

Messenger Snowy Owl

Messenger Snowy Owl

Using human and animal figures, Sandra’s sculptures are metaphors for various aspects of life where she seeks to capture a moment in time of a particular story or happening, possibly with one of the many animals she has encountered during her lifetime. With unspoken communication Sandra celebrates this “gift” that these animals have given her by memorializing them in clay. The protagonist of her story may well be a raven, an owl, a rabbit or a bear; appearing as shamans and donning cloaks to hide their true power. Sandra believes that stories make us who we are, and we are all a culmination of our own life’s events. In essence, the stories are about what has already happened, the communication and messages we receive from our environment and how we respond to them helps to build the next chapter in our life.

I Am

I Am

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We asked Sandra why she likes to work with clay and her answer was quite profound. Besides the soft, tactile pleasure of handling the clay, she finds it soothing; almost meditative. Despite whatever emotions she may bring to the start of a piece, working with the clay seems to have a poultice effect, taking that energy from her and releasing it, allowing her to shape the piece with a clear and calm mind. In the end the piece almost always expresses a compassionate and calm demeanor, a reflection of her own emotional transformation. It’s almost mystical, as if the clay itself had intention.

Pompous Rabbit Shaman

Pompous Rabbit Shaman


Sandra’s clay works are intriguing. Sometimes they answer questions we may have about our own lives, and sometimes they lead to more questions. They stimulate our imagination and curiosity and help to strengthen our bonds with nature. They are loving and caring and certainly enjoyable to look at.

Enjoy our interview with Sandra below. We welcome Comments and Sharing on social media.

Owl’s Well with Stone Carver Beate Marquardt

Owl’s Well with Stone Carver Beate Marquardt

Half-Owl carved of Indian Soapstone

Stone; the fascination that humans have had with this material goes back 3.4 million years during the Stone Age when the first evidence of shaped tools and weapons were found. Throughout the ensuing ages further clues have been left to reveal its uses. Prehistoric Stonehenge, with its still undetermined raison d’etre demonstrates the relative permanence of stone and the symbol it was to represent. More recently, the carving of four 60 foot high heads into a granite mountain over a fourteen year period was considered a worthwhile endeavour to draw tourist activity. The result was the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Bringing us to present day, this story is about Beate Marquardt who shares with us the artistic realm of her carved stone!

Beate in front of one of her Emily Carr tree pieces at the Lakes Artisan Centre

Beate in front of one of her Emily Carr tree pieces at the Lakes Artisan Centre

As we rolled into Burns Lake we looked forward to our meeting with Beate at our rendezvous location, the Lakes Artisan Centre, where numerous artisans including Beate display and sell their works of art. It was here that we would film most of Beate’s pieces which we were eager to see. It is one thing to look at a photograph of a sculpted, three dimensional carved piece of stone, but yet another to see the vibrant colours in person, walk around it, and feel its smooth surfaces and lines. It comes alive!

Fishcolour Fish

“Fishcolour Fish” – Brazilian soapstone on local shale

Click on images for a larger view:

From the gallery we traveled to Beate’s home which is surrounded by a wilderness setting, the likes of which invites even roaming moose and their young to take pause. She used to live in a much more rural area south of Burns Lake, living off-grid and requiring a ferry to get there, but once her Down syndrome son Wolf graduated she knew that he would get bored and so she moved closer to town where there are more programs for him to participate in such as the Special Olympics. I think Wolf was wondering who these two strangers were at first but soon he warmed up to us and sat down next to us as we all ate our cookies. A noticeable feature as we walked through Beate’s home was that we saw owls everywhere. Not only does she love owls, but these are a symbol of the nickname her parents have called her since infancy, and appropriately lending itself to the name of her website Owl’s Stone Carving.

"Alabaster Buddha" - U.S. Alabaster

“Alabaster Buddha” – U.S. Alabaster

Click on images for a larger view:

Stones have always been a part of our lives and I’ll bet there is nary a child that hasn’t picked up a stone to toss, feel and observe its shape, or just to skip it across the pond. There is an inherent connection between us and the earth, and it is evident from Beate’s carvings that she deeply understands the interconnectedness between all living things. Beate’s passion for carving stone took off in 2007 after receiving her first chunk of soapstone from her eldest son Peter the previous Christmas. She hasn’t looked back from that point and with only seven years of carving it is amazing how fine her work is. Beate notes that she does not pre-plan her carvings, but rather that the stone itself has a plan, and it’s just a matter of time before it reveals it to her.

"Green Woman of the Lakes" - Indian soapstone

“Green Woman of the Lakes” – Indian soapstone

"The Threat"

“The Threat” – Photograph by Jean-Philippe Marquis

Looking at the various carvings that Beate has done I can see that her subject matter has meaning; whether meaningful because of family association, symbols of nurturing, spirituality or cause. Above you will see “The Threat,” a beautiful piece that Beate carved in red Pyrophyllite and Black Chlorite. It is a message of protest to Enbridge who plans to put their pipeline directly through the town of Burns Lake. The sculpture depicts a salmon enveloped in a wave of black oil.

"Mother Earth Raped by Pipeline"

“Mother Earth Raped by Pipeline”-Brazilian soapstone and 2 painted drill cores

Above is another carving with a compelling message; Beate describes it as follows:
“My mother Earth is depicted as a voluptuous woman with big nurturing breasts and a pregnant front. Her hands are missing to show her defencelessness while suffering the brutal attack by the double pipeline carrying toxic bitumen.
The difference in surface treatment of polished breasts/abdomen and rough carved face/hair has this meaning: Just like the raw sexual interest of a rapist usually concentrates on breasts and abdomen and eclipses the beauty of the abused person as a whole so does the predominantly economic interest of the pipeline supporters neglect the importance of the unique beauty and balanced harmony of Mother Earth as a whole.”

Please join us with Beate as she talks more about her love of stone. We thank you for taking the time to comment and share on social media!

Greg Bradacs Carves Visions of Nature

Greg Bradacs Carves Visions of Nature

When antler carver Greg Bradacs had mentioned in an email that we would not be disappointed by a visit to his Bird’s Paradise property we weren’t quite sure what he meant, but as we drove down the long forested driveway and emerged into the clearing at his house we started to understand. He had transformed his quarter section of land into an interesting nature walk of wonder that accentuates the natural beauty and features of the land while also accenting it with his own creative flair in the form of a pond, trails, gazebos, wildlife viewing areas and of course…custom designed outhouses! He took us on a walk around his “living canvas” as he calls it; a rural retreat for adults and children alike while painting us a picture of the future plans he has for what is otherwise known as Visions of Nature. The heart, soul and energy that Greg has put into his property is evident everywhere we look, and it is no surprise that we see the same passion and focus that he puts into his antler carvings.

arts-quest-greg-bradacs-portrait1

Having been exposed to the outdoors since childhood, Greg has always been inspired by nature and found that drawing wildlife using pen and ink as a teenager was a fitting entry to his first artistic expression. He moved on to pointillism, honing his technique and deriving great satisfaction from the detailed images that would appear from the hundreds of thousands of dots that he meticulously put down on canvas. Greg’s drive and focus were a perfect fit for this art form. When Greg created the large eagle depicted below he decided to count the amount of dots he put down in a few select places. On the pupil of the eye there were 1400 dots, the nostril 300, the third large feather down on the left wing was 24,450 and on the third flight feather up on the right was 23,840 dots! The proof is in the pointillism as the detail that Greg exhibits is stunning! His pointillism also took shape as animals drawn on the skulls from which they originated. The outcome was not only Greg’s beautiful work of art but also commemorative to the animal taken.

Freedom of Flight IV

Freedom of Flight IV

Greg’s decision to carve antlers twelve years ago would bring his imagination, creativity and infinite detail to the natural “gifts” that moose and deer drop to the ground every year. He notes that many times he will get a vision in his head, a story that needs to be told and put forth to his antler medium. He then searches for the perfect “canvas” in his collection of antlers, one that speaks to him, and then gets to work! He uses a Dremel tool and dentistry tools with their fine bits to patiently carve the details of landscapes, animals, people or scenes. The result is another one-of-a-kind work of art!

One such story that Greg needed to tell was Can You Hear The Laughter, shown below. Click on the link within the name to read about how this remarkable carving came to be after 2 1/2 years in the making!

Can You Hear The Laughter?

Can You Hear The Laughter?

Click on the images below for a closer look!

Greg’s sought after antler carvings and commissioned pieces are not just the result of the skills he imparts to create them, but also unites the personalization he undertakes during the design phase. Through extensive fact finding he will get to know the recipient of one of his pieces to the point where the finished antler carving could represent a history of that person’s life. A great example of this was Greg’s piece, Memory Lane, a 50th birthday gift. By clicking on the link provided you will see that the personal life details of the birthday boy are embodied exceptionally well within the artistry.

Don't Look Back

Don’t Look Back

Rock Climber

Rock Climber

Click on the images below of Silent Minds, a remembrance to the riches-seeking miners of the past!

Enjoy getting to know Greg with us in his garden interview and please share on social media!