Ladysmith Secondary students are being given the opportunity in the coming months to see Stz’uminus First Nation carver John Marston work firsthand on a 14-foot Welcome Figure for the school’s foyer.
The roughed out cedar log was carefully loaded onto a flatbed truck donated by Ladysmith Home Hardware and transported from the Coast Salish artist’s workshop at the Machine Shop last Wednesday.
“It’s a pretty big milestone for the project, for the school and for everything that we set out to do two years ago,” said Marston. “This is what we talked about from the very beginning, to be able to work on the Welcome Figure here in the school.”
Most of the chainsaw work has been done and there is a bit more cutting with power tools before completing the rest with knives.
LSS students in the the new Language and Land Based Learning class being offered this semester have taken the walk down to Marston’s workshop several times to see the steps in the process.
Two weeks ago, the class assembled a cedar weave with the artist made from the cuttoffs of the cedar house posts installed at LSS last year.
“The pride the kids had in making this is immeasurable,” said teacher Bill Taylor, who first envisioned having more Coast Salish representation in the halls of LSS almost a decade ago.
All of the cedar pieces come from the same 40-foot tree donated by TimberWest while others such as FortisBC have provided significant financial backing to help make it possible. Countless volunteers, including Duck Paterson, have also been integral.
“The students in the community are so great. It’s not a distraction to me and it’s part of the reason why I wanted to do the work,” said Marston about being part of the project. “The kids are full of energy and positive energy and I’m happy to be here and do the work here.”
The LSS course and all of Marston’s work at the school is part of the Nutsumaat Syaays, or Working Together as One project, organized by Taylor and teachers Moira Dolen and Mandy Jones.
Taylor said one of the goals of revamping the foyer was to make LSS feel more like a home than an institution.
“Right now it feels to me like all the gifts are coming because of the work that’s been put in,” he said. “I think one of the most important things is that the tree is reunited in the space. It’s meant to be here.”
“The pride the kids had in making this is incredible,” he added.
Marston said the design and detail over the coming months will take many hours to finish before the Welcome Figure is unveiled in September.
While he created an initial sketch for it some is also being left to the inspiration he’s anticipating will come working at LSS.
“It’s full on through the summer,” he said. “I’ll probably leave some of the finer touches until the very end to keep it fun that way.”