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Old world craft used for modern art

Banff’s Canada House Gallery held its popular Artists’ Demo Day on Saturday (Aug. 8).
Artist and architectural blacksmith Paul Reimer takes a break during Canada House Gallery’s Artists’ Demo Day in Banff on Saturday (Aug. 8).
Artist and architectural blacksmith Paul Reimer takes a break during Canada House Gallery’s Artists’ Demo Day in Banff on Saturday (Aug. 8).

Banff’s Canada House Gallery held its popular Artists’ Demo Day on Saturday (Aug. 8). The gallery invited the public to watch and celebrate the creative process by offering the chance to get up close and personal as artists create in their chosen mediums right before their eyes.

Featured artists included Joan Baron, Hillberg and Berk’s Rachel Mielke, Sheila Kernan, Grant Leier, Terry McCue, Robert Roy and Paul Reimer.

Reimer, an architectural and artist blacksmith from Cranbrook, B.C., is never hard to miss, due to the loud and heavy work he creates on his anvil in front of the gallery during the demonstrations. Reimer’s projects vary due to the freedom blacksmithing can unveil, and from the requests he receives from private and public patrons.

From a simple letter opener to a 700-pound sturgeon-nosed steel canoe that floats created for a public art project, the 21st century artisanal blacksmith continues to show there really is no limit to what can be achieved in the realm of metal work.

Reimer as of late has also been garnering more attention from his outdoor pieces found at public libraries in Cranbrook and Saskatoon, Sask., which consist of large, intricate metal book sculptures for permanent display.

“The piece I made for Saskatoon was for a competition in Castlegar (B.C.) and it was in their Sculpture Walk,” Reimer said. “I got a call for existing works and you have to send in an existing sculpture you have. In all, 60 different artists from all over Canada applied for the Saskatoon competition and they selected mine to go in front of the Mayfair Library.”

One of the artist’s main goals with his public art is to draw the community closer together, with the Mayfair Library piece being a perfect example of the power and draw a great sculpture can add to a landscape.

“The Mayfair Library isn’t a very splashy building and nondescript, and when we put the public art piece up, there were people from that neighbourhood who didn’t even know it was a library,” Reimer said. “The art was bringing the people to the library and consequently building community, because now more people are engaged in their community than before the public art was there and that’s one of the things I really love about public art.

“It feels fantastic, but not in the sense I made something everyone gets to look at. I made something that draws people together. You now have a community resource that’s being more used than before the art – so yes, it’s cool that my art is there, but it’s cooler that my art is developing community interactions.”

Reimer began his career as an artist-blacksmith at the age of 15 when he apprenticed under master blacksmith John Smith of Kootenay Forge. Right after high school he set out on his own, taking over the blacksmith operations at Fort Steele, B.C. After building the blacksmith shop there from one person to seven, he then set his sights on founding his own business creating high-end architectural ironwork.

“The whole focus of my artistic practice is to create connections in the community, to create people’s interactions through art with other people,” Reimer said. “This is why Demo Day is perfect, because I can interact with people and they can absorb my art, but also feel more connected to it because they’ve gotten to know me and they’ve seen it made – it’s building that bond and is really one of the things I love most about art.”

Visit, www.reimerandco.com or visit Canada House Gallery to see Reimer’s latest creations.


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