When I first moved to Cranbrook in 2001, I was sort of kicking around town looking for some kind of work that would be appealing and interesting for a creative type of person. I had just left a very satisfying, but very intense job leading 8 young people around the country playing music, and I was looking for a change. It so happened one fateful day I bumped into long-time Cranbrook resident Paul Reimer. Paul is the owner/founder/vision behind Reimer & Co. Architectural Blacksmiths. In one of those life-altering moments, Paul said “Do you want to be a blacksmith?”.
I said, “I don’t know”.
Well, as Robert Frost puts it ‘As way leads to way’ I ended up accepting his offer and I will never forget my first day at work because we spent the first 2 hours standing around the radio saying things like ‘holy’, and ‘I can’t believe it’. My first day was September 11, 2001.
Turns out I have an aptitude for pounding iron. I worked for Paul for almost two years, and during that time got to build all kinds of interesting works from chandeliers to fireplace grates to handrails. I also used my background in illustration to design and render hundreds of designs for the shop. When the industry slowed down significantly (and temporarily) in 2003, I decided to take a job as graphic artist at a local design firm. During that time Paul and I maintained our design relationship. We are both passionate about art, and design, and building lasting, significant pieces in our chosen mediums. Paul has a great ability to design with his hands in the air, and I grew very good at interpreting and refining those air-gestures into renderings for clients all over North America. Since the founding of bluebeetle creative in 2003, Paul has been one of my most loyal and prolific clients, and our design file for Reimer & Co. is about 4 inches thick.
Paul and I have also made several submissions to large development projects for public art. The City of Richmond has a tremendous public art program that we have been short-listed for a couple of times. Our end goal was to start developing large-scale public art. Of course our desire was to see this sort of thing grow in our hometown, but Cranbrook is a tricky town to get universal support for the arts because of a large blue-collar and hockey/power-sports population that (and I’m generalizing here) does not see as much value in large-scale arts.
In the end, there was a break-through when the Library needed some new signage and benches, and Paul assisted them to secure some funding for three large metal book-shaped benches. We worked together on the drawings and Paul’s shop did a beautiful job fabricating these prominent examples of public art.
Once the foot was in the door, people seemed to understand that there are local people who have the skills and facilities to accomplish artwork of this kind, and I won’t say that opportunities came pouring in, but there were a few opportunities that presented themselves to us. One of these examples was for the Spirit Tree.
Originally, this sculpture was to be included in the ‘Spirit Square’ revitalization of downtown Cranbrook that was paid for by the Olympic Endowment Fund (a legacy fund that helps smaller, outlying towns in BC by providing funding for capital projects that improve the cultural life of the town). In the end, the sculpture didn’t fit the overall plan, but the drawing was done and the seed planted.
When Cranbrook Agencies was looking for an opportunity to celebrate their 100th year of business with an office in downtown Cranbrook, now owner Jon McWhirter suggested they revive the Spirit Tree and fund the creation of this sculpture. With funding help from CBT, logistical help from the municipality, and almost two years of maneuvering, the Spirit Tree sculpture went up beside the clock tower on Baker Street. Paul put in countless extra hours making this project happen, and his team of skilled blacksmiths (special kudos to Alex Marriott who did the lions’ share of the work) did a fantastic job turning this sketch on paper into something lasting and significant.
I am proud to be part of what I hope is a baby-step for my little town in a journey to being a community with a rich culture where there is room for hockey and for art. I will attach a few more photos below. Enjoy!