Jake James is pounding red hot steel in Metchosin, busily creating functional art for the village core.
James is creating two posts resembling Garry oak trees that will hold a commercially made aluminum signs stating “Welcome to Metchosin’s village core.”
James was hired by the District to create art posts. The project will replace a wooden sign, which rotted due to the elements.
While steel will rust, James explained, it will be made of such heavy plate it wont deteriorate in any of our lifetimes.
“Jake is a talented local blacksmith,” said Coun. Moralea Milne. “It’s (going to be) a little bit of public art incorporated into a functional use.”
Council approved $7,400 from the business development fund for the signs in December.
“After discussions with our local businesses in the village centre last year, they determined they would like some signs that are welcoming and unique and that let people know they are entering Metchosin village,” Milne said.
The signs are expected to be installed in front of the municipal grounds on Happy Valley Road and in front of the heritage church on Metchosin Road in April.
When designing the pieces James made sure to incorporate a rural and organic feel to reflect the attitudes of Metchosin.
“They are going to be steel plates riveted together,” James said. “They will have a natural oxide finish.”
With a chuckle James explained that means they’ll be rusted.
“I am just going to brush it up and chuck it outside, and they’ll rust. Eventually everything goes rust anyway,” James said.
The finishing touch to the pieces will be a clear coat to prevent rust rubbing off on people who may touch the signs.
In his workshop, James uses propane fire as well as a coke fire, a fire fueled by already burned coal. “So then there is no smoke or dust,” James said adding, “the propane furnace is more economical.”
James works with an assortment of hammers and tongs but for big jobs he uses a “power hammer,” an enormous mechanical forging hammer that stands taller than James.
“I swing a three and half or four pound hammer by hand. The 200-pound power hammer does in one hit what would take me half an hour,” James said.
This is not the first public art piece that James has created. His artwork can be seen in the James Bay in front of the Serious Coffee on Menzies Street and in Beacon Park in Sidney.
In James Bay the piece is of a lady on a bike with a coffee and cellphone crashing into a tree.
“It’s a commentary on how busy we are,” he said. “In Sidney it’s a lady power walking with a silly little pocket dog.”
James, 34, and has been a blacksmith for 12 years. He attended a blacksmith school in England and then trained for three years under a master blacksmith.
While he lives in Sooke, James has been operating his business Jake James Artist Blacksmith Inc. in Metchosin for six years.