In the Revelstoke Makers series we profile local makers — people who have honed a craft and are skilled in creating things by hand. The series will explore areas of tension in a maker’s process and examine how each person overcomes challenges unique to their art.
Meet Andrew Stacey, a local metal sculptor with big plans. Over the past 12 years Stacey’s artistic pursuits have been interwoven with a second career with CP Rail as both a train conductor and locomotive engineer. During these years, working as an artist part-time, Andrew was also a director of the Revelstoke Arts Council, an active member of the Revelstoke Visual Arts Society, and a founding member of the Art First! artist co-operative in Revelstoke, always striving to keep his vision for the arts and his participation at the forefront. Stacey is moving ahead with a new business plan to get his artistic aspirations back on track. What to watch for: a new website design, re-branding and new pieces he calls functional art.
Revelstoke Mountaineer: What do you make?
Andrew Stacey: I create indoor and outdoor sculptures and custom home décor items. I also make functional art out of various metals with some use of wood and stone. I have made benches, chairs, tables, large outdoor sculptures of metal monsters, robotic looking creatures, numerous candle holders and center pieces, meditation bells and gongs, as well as small to medium sized indoor sculptures.
The majority of my work incorporates what I call industrial salvage and found metal objects with a focus on recycling or upcycling. The style of my work has been likened to steampunk but I feel it is more a blend of medieval Viking meets the Road Warrior with a liberal dose of science fiction and fantasy. I have always been drawn to mechanical items (i.e. chains and gears). I intend for the end project to allude to the history of the component parts or an imagined functionality.
RM: How did you learn to express yourself with this medium? What inspires you to create?
AS: Despite growing up in a creative home (my father made metal sculptures and my mother carved wood) and demonstrating strong creative talents in my youth, I followed a career in engineering and manufacturing. While living in Kelowna, inspiration hit at an art exhibit we attended in 2001. Once the dormant creative muse connected with scrap metal as a medium, I could not turn it off.
The practical and technical skills to work with these materials have been learned throughout my life. It’s difficult to explain where the inspiration comes from since the objects that I acquire often drive it. Every waking moment of my life is a creative event and new ideas are a continuous stream. Personal fulfillment comes from the creative process itself, no matter the form it takes; home renovations, landscaping, creative writing, sculpting, furniture design and construction, and more.
RM: As a metal sculptor, what do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
AS: Twice in my art career I have been honoured with best in show awards for my work. However, my greatest achievement would be finding the courage to allow the creative process to manifest through me. I think my art changes how people look at the world around them and in particular those materials we think of as waste. My greatest joy comes from the connection I make with people that purchase my work, it’s a deeply validating relationship.
The type of work I do is not without its challenges. The processes I use are industrial and expensive so having a suitable studio space and cash flow have been an ongoing struggle. The raw materials I use have a market value so often I am denied access to suitable scrap metal because of corporate policies, prejudices, or civic government ignorance. Even though the amount of materials I use is extremely small, some of it may not be used for years so paying up front (at inflated prices) adds a carrying cost to my work that is difficult to absorb. None of these challenges is insurmountable and usually can be resolved but it helps if there is an appreciation for the artistic process to begin with.
RM: When did your craft transition from hobby to profession?
AS: My craft turned from a hobby to a profession the first time a customer fell in love with one of my creations and offered me a fistful of money to buy it. Not only did that event inspire me to continue to create but also it validated the form of my creativity as having a value beyond my personal satisfaction. It also exposed me to praise and recognition for a skill and ability that was mine to share without judgement or ridicule.
Although I briefly tried to be an artist full time, the financial reality of that starving artist lifestyle was painfully unbearable so I sought a suitable companion career to allow me to be an artist while earning a steady income with benefits. Working for CP Rail as a conductor and locomotive engineer has allowed me to live that double life.
RM: What are some new directions your creations are taking?
AS: Recently I have brought my focus back to what I call functional art in the form of coffee tables, end tables, and entryway benches. The designs frequently include other materials most notably salvaged or reclaimed wood and timbers. As much as this feels like a business decision, I have always had a passion for making things that have a function while maintaining uniqueness and style. Concurrently I will be launching a new website and marketing/business plan since I feel the time is right to move my creative output closer to being a primary income provider.
Smaller items can be purchased from Sangha Bean and Garnish in Revelstoke as well as the Revelstoke Visual Arts Center at member exhibitions. Other work is commission based or promoted via his website, and Facebook.