Acoustic-blues musician Brandon Isaak is busy sculpting a side career as a maker of “Mini-Legends.”
With extra time on his hands, due to fewer music-playing gigs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Surrey-area artist turned his attention to clay sculpture.
“I build the skeleton out of wire, and then you put clay around the skeleton,” explained the Whitehorse-born Isaak, also known as Yukon Slim.
“It takes a long time to get it all right,” he added. “I use a little pasta machine to roll my dough out flat, my clay, and I work off photos to capture as much of the character as I can. That’s basically what happens.”
On Facebook, the award-winning musician has launched a “Mini-Legends” page to showcase his “custom-sculpted folk art figures built at your request.” He’ll build anybody if you send him photos.
“Some of the orders are for me to do somebody’s son, for example, and I’ll get a photo of the person – sometimes it’s a blurry photo or a silhouette of somebody, so that’s interesting,” Isaak said with a laugh.
“And it doesn’t have to be a musician – that’s just what I like to build for myself, and that’s what most people ask for.”
Recent works include figures of Bob Marley, R. L. Burnside, Johnny Cash, Sonnyboy Williamson and Robert Johnson, among others.
“I’ve done some local musicians too, like Mike Schau,” Isaak said. “A radio DJ in the States just got hold of me to make a Samantha Fish, so that’s pretty much just a mini skirt with a guitar, right. But it seems I specialize in ugly men, so that one is interesting – I have to do legs and high heels, so we’ll see. That one might end up being on the house, we’ll find out,” he added with a laugh.
The figures are about nine or 10 inches high, and each require 14 to 18 hours to make. Prices range from $300 to $500.
“I try to keep it to around $300 if possible,” Isaak said. “Some people think it’s a steal of a deal and others are like, ‘Oh my lord, that much?’ But really, I’m working for, what, $16 an hour at that rate, so it’s minimum wage. But it’s a labour of love and I enjoy making them, so that helps, right.”
In “normal” times, the White Rock-raised Isaak plays his music four or five nights a week at various venues in Metro Vancouver, but that number has dwindled during the pandemic.
“We always kept busy, but now it’s a bit different – tough times for everyone,” he said. “I have three gigs next week and more after that, so it’s kind of picking up again. But you know, the pay is less than half, quite often. You’re taking a hit because you know these places are taking a hit, so we’re trying to make it work for everyone involved. These places are going through hard times, too.”
Meantime, Isaak keeps getting creative with clay.
“I dabbled with sculpting and stuff, paintings, but this is relatively new, me doing the full-on bodies and all that,” Isaak explained. “It’s actually turned out to be quite a booming little business. I’m back-ordered, and I’m sending them to places like Mississippi and all over Canada, so it’s pretty cool. I’m getting so many calls – four calls today, you know. It’s quite something.”
Look for Isaak’s music and more online at brandonisaak.ca. His gigs this month include Langley’s Smugglers Trail Brew House (on Jan. 14 and 19), Kingfishers bar and grill in Maple Ridge (Jan. 16) and Farm Country Brewing in Langley (Jan. 29).