Sparwood artist Helene Schroeder is pursuing her passion. Ezra Black/The Free Press

Driftwood and metal detecting

With effort, grit, ingenuity and a metal detector, local artist Helene Schroeder gets all of her materials from the natural world.

From her stall at the Fernie Mountain Market, the Sparwood resident sells crafts she assembles herself using stones, pieces of driftwood and anything she finds on her metal detecting forays.

She calls her business Rock ‘N Driftwood, Broken to Beautiful.

Though she has a day job, Schroeder is taking the summer to devote herself fully to her art to “see where it takes me.”

“It’s just always been there but I’ve never taken the time to do it,” she said of her creative urge.

Schroeder has been metal detecting since the early 1990s. Her detecting grounds include all of the Western Canadian provinces. She searches old ghost towns, fields, abandoned buildings and anywhere else that catches her fancy for buried treasures.

“You never know what you’re going to unearth,” she said. “It’s the thrill of finding something that’s new and exciting. Plus it’s exercise, you’re getting out into mother nature and enjoying it.”

She once found a gold pocket watch while searching an abandoned neighbourhood outside Calgary. She wanted to find its original owner so she checked it over for an engraving, but there was none.

She gets a lot of her driftwood from a particular lake in Kananaskis country, much of it is leftovers from the 2013 flood event that struck B.C. and Southern Alberta. Any place she goes visiting, she’ll always check the shoreline for good pieces.

Armed with her materials, she assembles her creations into any form she finds appealing. One piece is an amalgam of stones and fossils affixed to a piece of driftwood inscribed with the words “The earth has music for those who listen.”

Another of her pieces is a walking stick with three eagle heads.

“You luck out with a piece of wood,” she said. “That’s imagination for you.”

Schroeder will be setting up shop at the Fernie Mountain Market throughout the summer. She’ll also be attending farmer’s markets in Sparwood and the Crowsnest Pass.

The Fernie Mountain Market is held every Sunday in Rotary Park. Vendors from across the region arrive including farmers selling fresh fruit, organic vegetables, herbs and flowers. There are also local craftspeople selling soaps and fragrances. Local bakers bring out their pies, bagels, cupcakes and bread. There is also a large play area at the venue to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy the market.

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