CBC Radio – Sounds Like Canada


Canada Winter Games - Northern Torches - caribou antler - 20x32in ea - 2006 - Shane Wilson

Yukon Torch, Northwest Territory Torch, Nunavut Torch – Canada Winter Games – caribou antler – 20x32in ea – 2006

Bill Richardson, Guest Host: Hello and good morning and welcome to Sounds Like Canada. Here for Sheila Rogers, I’m Bill Richardson. It’s to the North we’ll go to begin, where sporty things are being done neath the midnight sun by athletes who moil for gold. 

(sounds from the Games, comments from athletes)

It’s so great when Sounds Like Canada starts with the sounds of Canada! 

David Gutnick, from Montreal, did you go to Whitehorse to cover the Games themselves, to hang out with the nimble athletes? 

David Gutnick, CBC Reporter

David Gutnick, CBC Reporter

David Gutnick, Reporter: [Yes, but I also wanted to meet …] an artist who was connected to the Games. There is a fellow, Shane Wilson, who is an artist just out of town here and he sculpted the three Canada Games Torches that were carried through Nunavut, NWT and Yukon through 10 months leading up to the Opening Ceremonies, last Friday. I wanted to see the fellow, see the hands that had carved the Torches. And so I visited Shane in his studio, where he works, on the second floor of this building about 12 kms out of town, where he sits at his carving desk, surrounded by shelves of caribou and moose and elk antlers antlers and he even has, believe it or not, mammoth tusks!

Shane Wilson: I have this marvellous carving table. It is magnificent the way it allows you to manipulate your carving and clamp down so that it doesn’t move. With moose antler you need power tools, mostly, like dental tools and grinders. I’ll start with one of the smaller ones. (noise of NSK Emax turning on)

David Gutnick: It looks like a dental drill.

Shane Wilson: In fact it is a dental drill. The same company that makes dental drills makes these for artists, for carvers, mostly for wood carvers. So then I follow the pattern I’ve drawn in to the antler (sound of carving). It is the same kind of material in antler as you have in your teeth (dentin). It isn’t ivory, per se, but it is a similar substance. Different antlers have different twists and turns and consistencies and you see how the final object will come out. If you look at the tail here and see how it curves around and comes out from the body a bit, the antler had a bit of a twist that way that I could use to make it look like this is alive and not just a flat object. 

David Gutnick: It’s like stepping into another universe, I look around and you’ve got this wall of grinders, you’ve got your bird cage over there, with your African Grey, whose name is…

Shane Wilson: Jerry is his name…

David Gutnick: Jerry the Parrot. And then you’ve got a wall of antlers and horns and tusks and skulls…

Shane Wilson: It’s my universe, I guess. I’ve got enough material here to last me a lifetime. 

(insert clip of Pam Boyde introducing the inaugural Torch Relay in Alert Bay, Nunavut)

David Gutnick: When you got the commission to do the Torches for the Canada Games, you did what? You come over here, you grab your …

Shane Wilson: I’ll show you. I have a rack that just has a selection of caribou antler, accumulated over the years from various finds. People find them because the caribou shed them every year. They just drop on the ground, whether in the tundra or the forest. So I went through the inventory here and found just the right handles for the torches, ones with a nice long, narrow shaft, so that you can hold on, plus a nice broomed end just right for carving. And I found three of them; I only had three that actually worked, one for each Territory, which also worked perfectly for the designs that I was looking at.  

This is a mammoth tusk, from a Wooly Mammoth, which was dug up in Dawson a couple of years ago. 

David Gutnick: It’s about two and a half feet long and weighs about 15 pounds. 

Shane Wilson: It’s actually just part of this larger tusk you can see up here. It’s like a huge snake, with the end broken off. 

David Gutnick: And how old is that?

Shane Wilson: Oh, it’s between 15 and 40,000 years old. It looks like an old rotten tree trunk, but when you carve it, it’s nice and white under the surface.

David Gutnick: You were an Anglican Priest?

Shane Wilson: I was yes. But I retired.

David Gutnick: But you’re a young guy!

Shane Wilson:  I retired young. (laugh)

David Gutnick: Bones were calling to you, they were talking to you?

Shane Wilson:  Well, art was calling to me. I was happy being a priest in the smaller communities here in the Yukon, Faro and Ross River. But I feel more fulfilled, more satisfied working at art, and particularly, carving, for some reason. It’s a living material, bone and ivory, it’s got an energy all its own.

David Gutnick: It’s spooky in here though, isn’t it?

Shane Wilson:  (laughing) It could be considered a little macabre, with all these bones, but I see such beautiful pattern in the bones, patterns in the skulls and antlers. People think of antler carving and think of eagle heads and stuff that you see in the tourist stores, but I like to think this is different. This is taking it a bit further, if you know what I mean. 

(clip of Piers MacDonald declaring open the 2007 Canada Winter Games over sound of Shane carving)


David Gutnick: Really beautiful things that he does, Bill!

Bill Richardson: You did very well for yourself up there, David Gutnick, or rather you are doing very well…

David Gutnick: Just wandering around, you tap someone on the shoulder and say “Hey, you’ve got a story you want to tell me?”

Bill Richardson: Well, I love the sound of Shane Wilson there in his workshop, surrounded by all that stuff, and when he said, its the same kind of stuff you have in antler as you have in your teeth, then there was that kind of dental sound in the background … well, I’ll never look at an antler quite the same way again, you can count on it!

Sculpture featured: Canada Winter Games – Northern Torches (Yukon, Northwest Territory, Nunavut)

CBC Archive Tag: Sounds Like Canada

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