Peninsula artist Fred Dobbs and the art of sculpting

Vancouver Island Sculptors Guild to present Sculpture at the Pier Show and Sale, starting Aug. 28 in Sidney.

Fred Dobbs, president of the Vancouver Island Sculptors Guild, will be on Beacon Avenue on the last day of this year’s street market to introduce the community to the upcoming Sculpture at the Pier Show and Sale.

Running for 11 days at the Pier Hotel in Sidney, the Guild will be featuring 25 different sculptors with 50 to 70 sculptures on display for people to view or purchase.

The opening night will be on Aug. 27 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. with two demonstrations on Beacon Avenue, with sculptors showing how to do their work.

“We’re thinking that with the summer market finishing that night, it will be a nice little segue into our 11 day event,” said Dobbs.

Dobbs works out of the South Island Bronze Studio, owned by Nathan Scott, completing bronze sculptures. His latest piece is a mermaid sculpture, titled ‘Pearl,’ which he first began creating inside a small abalone shell. He came up with the idea about the birthplace of a mermaid and began the clay sculpture inside the shell. The inside of the shell is covered in pearlescent, smooth material that the animal produces so it can live in there.

Artists can come up with sculptures out of anything — from wood and stone to clay, creating a mould from that material. Three artists are currently working in the Bronze Studio, Dobbs said.

He added that 20 others bring in their various works — which they can turn into a bronze sculpture.

Dobbs walked the PNR through the process of turning a piece of their work into bronze.

An artist starts off with an original sculpture, making a rubber mould for it. Into that they will pour in a wax and let it harden and cool. At that point, the wax channel can then be attached, which look like long pieces of red licorice. The wax is then enclosed in a ceramic material and dipped several times — as many as 12 or more times — to create thickness. The wax is then melted out, simultaneously firing the ceramic material. When it turns white, you know that it’s been fired, making it like a ceramic vessel.

Sometimes sculptors can’t cast the whole thing because its too big, so they have to make the art in sections, he added.

“So when it comes out as the bronze piece, I have to now weld it all back together again.”

For Dobbs, soap and potatoes were where it all began for him.

“I was always that kid that was doodling and I suppose it’s just a passion, it’s just something that happens for you.

“I remember sculpting a bar of soap once when I was a kid, just carving out a bar of soap, even playing with my mashed potatoes when I was eating dinner. It just becomes your lifestyle, your work or your passion,” he said.

Dobbs’ mermaid sculpture will be on display but he said it has already sold. He’s willing to take orders for new ones, he said.

The Guild show runs Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Sidney’s Pier Hotel.