FOLLOWING a sawmill explosion that left Burns Lake not only in mourning but without its main economic driver, two carvings from Terrace are symbolizing a revival.
Not in the forestry sector, though. The village is looking to First Nations tourism — and with six First Nations in the Burns Lake area, the idea is a perfect fit, says Burns Lake Band councillor Westley Sam.
The carvings are two of four ordered by the Burns Lake Band and Village of Burns Lake.
They’re being done by Ben Gerow, who lives here but grew up in Burns Lake.
Each carving represents one of the four clans in the Burns Lake area — the beaver and bear being the ones that are ready now and the caribou and the frog underway and set to arrive later.
A fifth carving, of a Sasquatch, has also been commissioned.
“We’re doing the large Sasquatch for First Nations folk lore,” said Sam. “We’re basically trying to get into the tourism market as First Nations tourism is the fastest growing in B.C.”
Gerow has been carving since the early 1980s, he said, adding the current work is underway with mentor Joe Mandur Jr.
“We are learning from each other,” said Mandur. “A different way of asking makes a different way of learning and teaching.”
The two, and Gerow’s apprentice Alex Erickson, set up shop in a driveway of a Tuck Ave. house in Terrace and have been working steadily.
The carvings are being made from red cedar, and the process of making each one takes roughly one month, said Gerow.
The first step is selecting the wood.
“It’s better to go through a whole pile (of logs) and say this one, that one, this one,” said Mandur, who added that old logs are preferred because they’re dry and therefore easier to carve.
“The sap is out of it,” he said.
Then, limbs and bark are stripped, added Gerow.
Carving is usually done on the side opposite to where the limbs have been growing.
“The knots are like pebbles,” said Mandur, explaining why carving on them doesn’t work.
After a log is stripped, the centre line is found and it is cut to the desired size.
“Then you start putting in your design,” said Mandur. “You make a template, start on one side, and then you work from there.”
The drawing is the two-dimensional element to the piece, and from there wood is stripped away.
“You have to make it three dimensional,” said Mandur.
Gerow has taken each of the finished carvings to the three dimensional stage, and Mandur has worked on his own alongside him.
“I get it right down to when an apprentice can take over and smooth things out,” said Gerow.
The carvings are then finished off with a protective coating prior to being sent to their new homes.
They’ll be mounted on a large stand and, accompanied with a information display board, placed around Burns Lake.