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Sooke Harbour: News: Sooke Fine Arts

Blacksmith, Sculptor net awards

Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror 
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

#1 denotes the location of the Bellowing Blacksmith

East Sooke blacksmith Sandy Sydnam had been encouraged for years to submit her work to Sooke Fine Arts. This year she finally relented and was accepted into the juried event. Sooke sculptor Jan Johnson can only remember two times he did not have a piece in the 18 year-old event.

Though the length of their experience with the show varies, both artists received awards for their creations at the show's official opening Friday night. Sydnam was the first-ever winner of the Sooke Harbour House award for the best three-dimensional art in the show for her piece Organic Gate. Meanwhile, Johnson earned the Sooke Community Arts Council Award for the best artwork done by a artist residing in the Sooke region.

Both artists said they were honoured by their respective awards.

"Coming out this rosy is pretty special to me," Sydnam said. "I am quite thrilled that people like the work. It might encourage me to do a lot more."

Johnson and Sydnam also feel having their creations in the same room as such works as watercolours and clay sculptures just shows the diversity of the show.

"It is a real feast of art," Johnson said.
The show runs through Sunday at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex. The show is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Eric Charman opened the show Friday night with a humourous, yet passionate speech. Charman touched on a variety of subjects, including cautioning artists about getting too disappointed if they did not get in. Charman, a Victoria arts supporter and philanthropist, noted there are many talented laywers in this country that disagree with judges's rulings. With representatives of municipal, federal and provincial government seated behind him, Charman campaigned for more dollars to be put into the arts. He said it is always where governments look first to make cuts.

Also during Friday's ceremony, Cindy Shin-Min Wang received the Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic Award for best in show for her piece entitled Island's Temperature 1. The award is sponsoed by the Sooke News Mirror. Daniel Sikorsyki received the Audrey St. Denys Johnson Award, co-sponsored by Lens & Shutter, for photography for Jack Daniel's.

For some, a blacksmith is not immediately thought of as an artist. Sydnam can tell tales of horse owners bringing their steeds to her Leda Road studio and asking her to shoe them.
"It's not jut shoeing horses," Sydnam said with a laugh. In fact, she does not know how.

What Sydnam does know is how to mix the age-old principles of blacksmith work with contemporary ideas.

"Everything is done the old-fashion way and using coal," she said.

However, Sydnam allows herself to try new things with her blacksmith skills. Organic Gate is certainly not a traditional blacksmith piece. The four-foot by just over five and a half-foot tall work features decorative hand hammering on the mild steel.

"'Organic Gate' is a transition from the outside world into the 'haven' or garden," reads the description in the Sooke Fine Arts catalogue. "This piece of contemporary art symbolizes the change derived from an industrial product and through heat and hammering to a welcoming passageway."

Sydnam's interest in blacksmith work was piqued as child when she visited pioneer villages. In 1996, the former Victoria truck driver and photographer moved with her husband to East Sooke to pursue her passion for blacksmithing.

That year she started a three-year apprenticeship under Vancouver Island blacksmith Harold Hennigar, as well as learning from fellow veteran Frank Clayton. Their teachings are the basis of her work to this day.
Still sculpting

While many of Sydnam's pieces are functional pieces of art, Johnson likes to take everyday objects and turn them into something different. Global Round features the chain and gears from an old manure spreader. The base of the project was once a bed frame.

The chain still goes round, but what is on it is not smelly but rather crafted figures. Among those featured are kings, queens, salesmen, missionaries and restaurant icon Ronald McDonald. The idea is to show how certain people in society repeat themselves in history and around the globe, according to Johnson.
As a transportation economist working as a consultant, Johnson travels frequently. In June, he returned from a stint in Laos. While it is his time away - which makes him conscious of globalization - inspired his award-winning piece, Johnson also enjoys his time at Sooke, where he has had a house since 1975.

"It is nice to come back home and play in the workshop," he said.

Johnson learned how to use a welder while growing up on a Wyoming ranch. However, it was not until the former U.S. Army platoon leader returned from Vietnam in 1966, that he started exploring the artistic opportunities metal provided.

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The Bellowing Blacksmith

Owner: Sandy Sydnam
Address: 5931 Leda Road, (East Sooke)
Sooke, BC V0S 1N0
Phone: (250) 642-7225
Fax: (250) 642-7055

The Blacksmith shop has a wonderful viewing area inside a cozy store. Open 7 days a week, holidays too! Call ahead to make sure the coal is glowing!

Blacksmith shop


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