Steve Van Vugt with one of his salvaged logs made into a bench

Flights of fancy and other wood art

Driftwood artist discovers new life through fire and flame

According to Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird cyclically reborn, by obtaining new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.

So it is with Steve Van Vugt.

When a fire destroyed his home on Hornby Island, it destroyed much of what he had created and gathered for his retirement. He had spent 28 years as owner and operator of White Rock Antiques. His antiques and precious objects became ashes, his plans vapourized.

Of course he was devastated, but he soon realized that this might be the opportunity he was seeking — a new life without any of the trappings of the past. In many ways he said he felt he brought this misfortune on himself, so it stands to reason that he turned it around.

“Sometimes, some of us need to let go of something before we can allow something new to enter our lives,” said Van Vugt.

He went from the fine finished woods in antiques to the rough, natural shapes and forms of driftwood. He became Driftwood Steve.

On Hornby he had discovered the wealth of raw material in discarded wood. He became Slab Master where he spent three years cutting table tops up to four feet wide and 12 feet long from logs salvaged from the beach,

“And so began my new pursuit to make a living with what was remaining… my wood,” he said.

He travelled to Germany and began creating temporary sculptures out of sand and snow. He calls himself a conceptual artist.

He now resides part-time in Canada and part-time in Germany. In Germany he found Europeans had a very real appreciation for the cast offs from our logging industry.

Sooke became his Canadian transition from Hornby Island. It is here that he finds some of the most amazing driftwood.

“My love for driftwood — that’s why I live here,” he said. “The driftwood here is spirit wood,” he said. “We have such an abundance here. The waste is beyond me.”

He lives on Whiffin Spit Road on a large property which affords him the space to create his works for Art by Nature.  His bread and butter are the driftwood birds scattered around his property. Call them flights of fancy, because that is exactly what they are. He enjoys making these and never names what type of bird they are.

“I leave it to the imagination,” he said. “Interpretation allows others to see things and only the wood speaks out.” He also said children have been his best teachers.

Scattered around his home are various objects made from reclaimed wood, some sculpted only slightly and some fashioned into organic benches, tables and seats. Outside are eco-friendly Christmas trees made from driftwood. He also has some of his “trees” at the Sooke Harbour House.

He is holding an Art by Nature open house on Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to about 7 p.m. at 1564 Whiffen Spit Road. He will have hot chocolate, homemade chai and gluk wein available.

And, he says, watch for some surprise temporary art on Whiffin Spit between Christmas and New Years.

For more information: artbynaturesteve@gmail.com or call 250-642-7522 and leave a message for Van Vugt.

Just Posted

Woman charged in Saanichton stabbing

One man treated for injuries, released from hospital following Friday assault

Sooke’s First Nations have Iroquois links

References to the proud Iroquois race tend to make one think of… Continue reading

Avid Victoria cyclist’s legacy bike ride helps fund end-of-life care

2019 Denis Muloin Ride for Palliative Care invites cyclists for May 26 fundraiser

Funnyman coming to the West Shore

Comedy and television staple Billy Gardell performs at Elements Casino

Police-run Youth for Change and Inclusion camp bids fond farewell to tireless directors

Founder Sgt. Paul Brookes has run camp empowering youth and creating leaders for 16 years

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read