Out of the Fire book launch for Steffich Fine Art – Gulf Islands Driftwood

People who enjoyed Pirjo Raits’ 2018 book Out of the Woods – Woodworkers Along the Salish Sea will be pleased to know that she followed this successful format to shine a light on local artists working with metal.

Out of the Fire – Metalworkers Along the Salish Sea was just released by Heritage House Publishing and features several Salt Spring Island metal artists: Seth Burton, Jacob Burton, Peter McFarlane, Carl Sean McMahon, Nycki Samuels, Alvaro Sanchez and Alison and Jeri Sparshu. The others reside between Sooke and Qualicum Bay on Vancouver Island, and the Vancouver area and Roberts Creek on the mainland.

A book launch event is scheduled for Friday, April 29 at 7 p.m. at Steffich Fine Art in Grace Point Square, where works by some of the metalworkers can be found. A Victoria launch is at Bolen Books on April 30 at 7 p.m.

As with the Carpenters’ Book, Raits teamed up with photographers Dale Roth and Michele Ramberg to capture stunning images of the artists, their creations, and workspaces to illustrate the author’s text derived from each’s visit.

The 24 artists work in fields ranging from sculpture to blacksmithing to jewelry making, showing the diversity that results from the meeting of metal and fire in skilled hands.

“Everyone approaches it so differently,” Raits observed, which was one of the interesting facets for her as a writer.

“What I’ve tried to do is have so many different kinds of manufacturers,” she said, adding “flame is the common denominator.”

Otherwise, the criteria for inclusion was simply that the individual made a living in their chosen profession and was passionate about it.

“Most of the people interviewed for Out of the Fire are the ultimate recyclers,” Raits writes in the book’s introduction. “These are dumpster divers, garbage collectors, thrift stores and garage sales. Someone’s waste is his raw material. Heaps of scrap iron, cutlery, car parts, bicycle wheels, tire rims and brass candlesticks are hidden in hidden corners or in full view of all around their shops and forges, all this feeds the flame and imagination.

She said Salt Spring resident Peter McFarlane embodied the subjects of the book. Not only is he a “total recycler”, but he also went to art school, is intensely creative, and makes statements about society through his work.

Then there’s Alison and Jeri Sparshu of Thistle Rock Forge. They are certified journeyman farriers with a mobile unit to provide their services, blacksmiths and metalworkers.

“We had a great afternoon shoeing a horse,” Raits said of his visit to their southern property.

“Horseshoeing is an art, a science and a job,” Jeri Sparshu is said to have said in the book.

Raits is an award-winning freelance editor, journalist and writer, whose own artistic training, particularly in the fabric arts, informs her writing about the work of artists. She was editor of the Sooke News Mirror for 10 years before retiring in 2015.

Raits congratulated publisher Heritage House and everyone who contributed to Out of the Fire.

“The book designer did her part, the photographers did their part and I did mine,” she said, describing the successful team effort that went into the process. “Just let the creatives be creative.”

Raits also acknowledged support for the project from the BC Arts Council and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

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