By JIM HILDEBRAND
BACK HARBOUR — Tucked away in Back Harbour is the studio of Jim Anstey.
Originally Mr. Anstey was going to turn the building into a cottage, but he soon realized that it would fit his needs to create his art. It became his studio where he turns out remarkable pieces of unique sculpture made from wood, soapstone, antlers, bone and teeth.
“I consider myself more of a craftsman than an artist,” he said. “When I was young I was fascinated with my grandfather’s lathe (Benjamin Freeman) and decided to make my own.
“Soon I was making candle holders. I later bought a lathe and started a business restoring furniture with Garry Troake. Later on I bought the whole business from Garry.”
His furniture restoral business soon changed to creating works for his own enjoyment. The pieces were often created as gifts for friends and acquaintances. His craftsmanship and creativity soon created a commercial demand.
As a government surveyor he often found material to be transformed while on the job. Blasting through cliffs he would often find deposits of soapstone. Clearing bush he would come across tree stumps that he could use for chairs. He and his friends would find antlers.
“The whalebone, seal and antler raw material are acquired either as a result of natural predation or molting processes,” he explains. “No animals have been killed or have suffered in any way at the hands of men to produce my artwork.”
He has been making his fine art carvings since around 1985. The carvings are handmade but often require the mechanical assistance of a lathe or Dremel and other hand tools. Many of the creations are similar in form and substance, yet each is unique and are prized by collectors and ordinary citizens.
“One evening I was having a few home brews with friends and looking at some antlers when it struck me that the antlers kind of looked like a duck coming into decoys,” he shared.
With this revelation he was soon carving and polishing antlers that are now a popular piece of his repertoire.
Someone once asked him if he made Inukshuks. Although he didn’t, he was soon producing Inukshuk jewelry from whale bone. He further produces seal tooth earrings and moose antler candle sticks. Beautiful carvings emerge from gnarled pieces of wood or chunks of soapstone.
His tools can start from crudely shaping with a chainsaw to more refined work with wood tools, knives and Dremels to shaping with various grades of sandpaper progressing to a final polish using 2000 grit.