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Polar bears inspire local sculptor

In wintery fashion, Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery artist and proprietor, Don Begg, is showcasing his most recent exhibition throughout the month of December — a collection of polar bears, modeled after a trip to Churchill, Man.
Don Begg works on a piece in his workshop at Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery.
Don Begg works on a piece in his workshop at Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery.

In wintery fashion, Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery artist and proprietor, Don Begg, is showcasing his most recent exhibition throughout the month of December — a collection of polar bears, modeled after a trip to Churchill, Man.

“In one day, we saw 35 polar bears,” remarked Don, who made the trip with his wife, fellow artist and business partner of some 42 years, Shirley Begg.

Enamored by the giant bear’s flexibility and majesty, the Beggs have sculpted a collection of polar bears available for purchase at their Cochrane location; with three completed so far, the pieces range from $895-$1400.

It’s a nice Christmas bridge into what appears to be a busy 2013 season for the duo, considering they were flown to Regina on Dec. 3 to attend a press conference announcing the commissioning of the Beggs to create a bronze monument of Saskatchewan’s first premier, Walter Scott.

The life-size monument will add to the list of some 110 monuments envisioned, created and bronzed over the years.

Many of their pieces have found their home on the lawns of parliament building grounds, in parks and in downtown public spaces — such as the fisherman at Calgary International Airport or the Legacy Statue in downtown Cochrane.

“When you do a monument and it’s in a public space, everyone gets to enjoy it,” said Don, adding that an average monument takes 6-10 months to construct.

Strolling into his workshop, located at the back of the studio’s retail space, Don explains the process of creating a bronze sculpture — walking through the steps from a wire frame construct to oil-based clay mold to rubber mold, on to a wax pattern which is then invested into a ceramic material, stood in a furnace until the wax is melted out (called the lost wax process) and the bronze is poured in at 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.

From there, a rough casting is done, grinding the work down to it’s original form and a patina is put on it, giving it its colour.

For the Beggs, who have worked side by side in the studio for more than four decades, no project is too big or too small — be it a bronze figurine or a 17-foot high monument.

“It’s the challenge every day of creating something new and different… When you make something in bronze, it lasts thousands of years.”

The Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery is located at 205 2 Avenue South.

For hours of business contact 403-932-2611.


Lindsay  Seewalt

About the Author: Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing.
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