A former source of shade is now a source of creative inspiration.
Dan Law’s studio was buzzing with excitement in Tofino on June 21 when the second of a series of community carving workshops, launched through a partnership between Law and St. Columba Church, was held.
The community-building collaboration was hatched back in April, when the church was sorting out how to handle a dying mountain ash tree, also known as a Rowan Tree.
“It was coming to the end of its life so we had to take it down and we were aware at the church that the Rowan Tree is sacred in Celtic cultures,” Rev. Will Ferrey told the Westerly News.
“We thought, ‘What a neat opportunity to cut it down and not just chip it or turn it into firewood, but to cut it down and turn it into things…and to see all the different things we can teach and learn from this one tree.’”
Law, a local installation artist, was thrilled to help craft the initiative and lend his knowledge, tools and studio space to the cause. He joined local kids at a Sunday church service to chop down the tree and transform it into an educational and inspirational tool.
“In this day in age, it’s really essential for children especially to understand they can make things with their hands and they don’t have to buy their happiness or necessarily buy into all the consumer culture. They can actually just feel good and make stuff that’s just as good if not better,” Law told the Westerly.
“I love creating things. If i want to go make something, I just dream it up and then, because I have the simplest of tools and the know-how, I can do it. It’s really a wonderful release of the imagination.”
The idea to host free carving workshops grew thanks to support from Tofino’s municipal council, which awarded a $2,500 Arts and Culture Grant to the initiative.
Law said grants like these provide valuable opportunities.
“The only reason we could do this and spend this much time and have all of these kids and adults come is because of the municipal arts grants,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic investment the community’s made in the kids and the arts in general and I hope it continues and gets bigger and better.”
Last week’s workshop was designed specifically for kids and Law was impressed with how quickly they caught on.
“I started the afternoon with a certain number of simple projects and the kids did those with gusto and a lot of the kids actually came up with their own projects,” he said.
“A couple of kids decided they wanted to make owls so I showed them how to do it. I showed them the tools they’d need and how to use the tools and they made their own sculptures, so that’s really fantastic.”
Law and his wife Molly have lived in Tofino for about 15 years and enjoy hosting a variety of local workshops.
“I really enjoy watching kids learn. I really do,” Law said.
“It’s nice, from my point of view, just to be able to have some tools around and enough knowledge on how to put things together, use the tools and finish a product so that, if they want to do something, I can just be a resource…I’m fully happy and willing to roll with what the kids want to do.”
He said he enjoys reaping the rewarding experiences these workshops bring.
“When I see the kids have an idea, present it and say, ‘Dan, I want to make this thing’ and i help them out and they accomplish it, I feel like the world is a better place. I just feel really happy,” he said.
He added that the West Coast is rich with creatively talented locals and he hopes to see these locals launch their own workshops to increase learning opportunities for youth.
“There is a lot of people with some fantastic talent in Tofino and Ucluelet that do some amazing things,” he said.
“Give the kids a chance. They will blow your mind with what they can do. They’re a lot easier to work with than you think. They’re a lot more able than you think and the rewards are a lot bigger than you can imagine.”