People who enjoyed Pirjo Raits’ 2018 book called Out of the Woods – Woodworkers Along the Salish Sea will be excited to know she has followed that successful format to put the spotlight on the region’s artists working in metal.
Out of the Fire – Metalworkers Along the Salish Sea has just been published by Heritage House Publishing and includes several Salt Spring Island metal artists: Seth Burton, Jacob Burton, Peter McFarlane, Carl Sean McMahon, Nycki Samuels, Alvaro Sanchez, and Alison and Jeri Sparshu. The others reside between Sooke and Qualicum Bay on Vancouver Island, and the Vancouver area and Roberts Creek on the mainland.
A book launch event is set for Friday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at Steffich Fine Art in Grace Point Square, where work by some of the metalworkers can be found. A Victoria launch is at Bolen Books on April 30 at 7 p.m.
As with the woodworkers book, Raits teamed up with photographers Dale Roth and Michele Ramberg to capture stunning images of the artists, their creations and work spaces to illustrate the author’s text derived from visiting each one.
The 24 artists work in fields ranging from sculpture to blacksmithing to jewellery making, showing the diversity that results when metal meets fire through skilled hands.
“Everyone approaches it so differently,” Raits observed, which was one of the interesting facets for her as a writer.
“What I tried to do is get as many different types of makers in there,” she said, adding that “flame is the common denominator.”
Otherwise the criteria for inclusion was simply that the individual was making a living at their chosen craft and they were passionate about it.
“Most of the people interviewed for Out of the Fire are the ultimate recyclers,” Raits writes in the book’s introduction. “They are dumpster divers, scavengers, thrift-store and garage- sale devotees. Someone’s trash is their raw material. Piles of scrap metal, cutlery, car parts, bicycle wheels, tire rims, and brass candlesticks are stashed in hidden corners or lie in plain sight around their shops and forges, all of it grist for the flame and the imagination.”
She said Salt Spring resident Peter McFarlane epitomized the book’s subjects. Not only is he a “total recycler” but he also went to art school, is intensely creative and makes statements about society through his work.
Then there is Alison and Jeri Sparshu of Thistle Rock Forge. They are certified journeymen farriers with a mobile unit to provide their services, blacksmiths and metalworkers.
“We had a great afternoon shoeing a horse,” Raits said about her visit to their south-end property.
“Horseshoeing is an art, a science, and labour,” Jeri Sparshu is quoted as saying in the book.
Raits is an award-winning, editor, journalist and freelance writer, whose own artistic background, especially in fabric arts, informs her writing about the work of artists. She was the editor of the Sooke News Mirror for 10 years before retiring in 2015.
Raits praised publisher Heritage House and everyone who contributed to Out of the Fire.
“The book designer did her part, the photographers did their part and I did my part,” she said in describing the successful team effort that went into the process. “You just have to let creative people be creative.”
Raits also acknowledged assistance with the project from the BC Arts Council and Saskatchewan Arts Board.