December 8, 2017 marked the final End of an Era for me at my old studio location in Moodyville, North Vancouver, BC, Canada. I’ve moved out all my raw materials and all my tools and equipment. I wrote earlier this year about moving the sculpture garden in Part One and and closing our gallery in Part Two. Now I have bid adieu to my studio production space that has been the source of creation for thousands of my sculptures over the past 32 years.
When I bought the property at 535 East First St. in 1985, there was just a small parking space off the alley at the bottom of the sloped backyard. I wanted to build a sculpture studio and work from home, but my father suggested a different approach. He reviewed my situation and suggested I build a regular car garage instead. I was a bachelor – what would happen if I met the girl of my dreams and she did not like the house? It would be very difficult to sell a house with a sculpture studio in the back yard. I was still developing my art career and had a moonlighting job to cover the bills – what if I decided to pack in the idea of becoming a full-time professional artist?
The arguments seemed valid, so he designed a three bay garage with one open bay and two enclosed. This fit my needs, as I was creating mostly small scale sculptures which I would carve inside one bay and the odd large piece could be carved in the outside bay. It was built at alley level into the hill, so noise would be absorbed and not disturb my neighbours. Raw materials and finished sculptures could easily come and go from the alley. The second covered bay would keep my motorcycle and truck.
So in the late summer of 1985, the two of us commenced building the structure. A large concrete north wall secured the undercut back yard. That’s me, above right, laying drainpipe behind the wall. We had lots of help – my uncle (with me above left during the footings pour), my sister, my high school buddies. Upon completion, we installed decking and a railing on the roof for added yard space.
As it turned out, I did meet the girl of my dreams – Michelle. She fell in love with me AND the house. In 1987, I quit my moonlighting job to become a full time artist. How many people do THAT?! So in hindsight, I built too small, but I have no regrets.
This structure served me for 32 years, and worked well, though it had no heat, nor running water. I used a propane heater in winter and water came from a garden hose from the side of the house, but I made it work. And as time went on, my commissions and inspiration sculptures began to grow in scale. All my public art commissions were carved here – the Queen Mary 2 sculptures, the WWI memorial, and the “Winds of War” sculpture to name a few. And speculation pieces, such as “The Temptation of Adam” and “Awakening” were carved here.
There has been a change in plans. Our realtor for the land assembly we organized decided not to take the old house as his vacation home. So instead, in a few weeks the gallery, house and the studio will be bulldozed along with the rest of the old neighbourhood houses to make way for a new community of town homes and condos.
This old girl of a studio doesn’t owe me a thing. She has served me well but its time to move on to another studio. My new digs are being built in nearby Squamish, BC and when finished, I will commute to my new studio and gallery combination.