Traditional forging techniques will be used in an exhibit to honour the Elk Valley’s mining past and present.
Fernie Forge blacksmiths David and Sandra Barrett are working on a number of vignettes to be included in the Miner’s Walk, which is currently being constructed on the grounds of Fernie’s City Hall, the original headquarters of the valley’s coal company.
The walk, which is due to be completed this year, will feature information panels that tell the story of significant players in coal mining in the area and will describe the geology and natural and human history of the area’s coal mines.
Fernie Forge is producing wrought-steel sculptures of a horseshoe, ants, snails, bull trout and spiders and copper pieces showing the life cycle of the butterfly that will be used to decorate pieces of mining machinery in the walk.
They will each be 12 to 15 inches long and are likely to be used low on the structure, so that children can search for them.
Although the modern blacksmiths can use modern welding and plasma cutting technology, they also use a traditional coke forge and anvil to shape hot metal, just as blacksmiths would have done in the Elk Valley’s early years.
“The main sculpture of a miner’s head is being created by an internationally-known artist, Jeff de Boer,” explained Sandra. “So it is a real honour for us to be asked to take part, and to have our work displayed in such an important project.”
David and Sandra are currently working on the spider sculptures, which involves cutting and shaping the head, body and all eight legs separately before putting them together.
Sandra said a lot of research is going into the work to make sure it accurately represents the Elk Valley’s natural heritage.
“Originally I had a vision of a bull trout leaping through the water, but when we spoke to the conservation officer we found out that they don’t leap. As there are so many fishermen in the valley we want it to be accurate.”
Sandra also spoke about the Miner’s Walk to CBC presenter Sheryl McKay during a live broadcast of North by North West radio show from Fernie Heritage Library last Saturday.
Anyone interested in seeing behind the scenes as the miner’s walk sculptures are created can visit Fernie Forge on the upcoming Columbia Basin Trust Culture Tour on Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14.
The forge, which is located in Hosmer, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and visitors will be able to see the sculptures that have already been completed and find out how they were made.
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