Driftwood Steve had his faith in humanity restored after his carved wooden hand was recovered.

Giving the man a hand up

Local artist gives high-five for recovered wooden hand sculpture

Sooke-based artist, Steve Van Vugt (known as Art By Nature and Driftwood Steve) got his hand back – yes – his hand – a massive wooden sculpture that was plucked away by thieves from its Sooke Harbour House home on March 24, 2014.

Vugt had just given the unique artwork to his niece as a natural cradle for her baby just before it disappeared, initially offering a $750 reward for its recovery.

Thanks to a long and thorough investigation by the local RCMP however, the piece is now back in its original place. It wasn’t easy though.

“I notified the local shops, second hand stores, antique shops about my hand, and after six months, nothing surfaced,” Vugt said. “I almost lost hope.”

But karma – as well as the thief’s own inherent stupidity – was on Vugt’s side, after the individual in question decided to take the piece to an antique store specializing in wooden carvings and sell it – for a mere 100 bucks.

Little did he know however, that he was only fooling himself.

“The owner of the store knew who made the hand, so he said, ‘I’m not interested, but I know someone who would be, why don’t you give me your name and your number’ to which he did,’” Vugt said.

Vugt then followed up on it and contacted the police.

“I went to the RCMP here in Sooke and they asked, ‘would you be happy to get the hand back.?’ I said, sure.”

Of course, the suspects didn’t want to easily give up their prize, Vugt recalls. “They were approached and told, if you don’t produce the hand, you’ll have to come in to the detachment and right away they said they sold the hand to someone in Shawnigan,” Vugt said.

Following the warning, police then went to the suspects’ Cowichan Bay-based home and, as Vugt says, low and behold, outside their house was his hand. But that wasn’t all. The place was apparently littered with ATVs, totem poles and all kinds of stolen stuff.

To Vugt, the ordeal was over. In the end, finding the hand wasn’t a matter of money, or fame – it was an emotional investment, a part of his soul that he had recovered.

“I have to tip my hat to the wonderful RCMP boys here in Sooke, as well as Shawnigan for collaborating together and helping me get my hand back,” he said. “It made me realize that I can have faith in humanity again.”