Howard Borton may have worked as a local craftsman installing hot tubs by day as part of his family business, but by night, massive shiny and chrome shapes sprouted from his workshop, whether it was a bear, an eagle, a fish – even a dragon.
Following his death recently after a battle with cancer, Borton is both mourned and remembered by the local sculpting community for his unique pieces of work, most of which reflected the importance of endangered species.
His favourite material of creation was recycled chrome bumpers from cars – case in point that one man’s junk is one man’s treasure.
In this case, it was fodder for a masterpiece.
“Howard’s works had weight to them and huge impact, he was more about creating a surprise element,” said local Sooke sculptor Christa Rossner, who met Borton during last year’s Sculpture Splash in Esquimalt.
She recalls the scene “out of a fairytale” of a 14-foot long, five-foot-tall dragon Borton had built, which was displayed by the water near Macaulay Point Park – due to the wind currents, its wings were flapping up and down as if it were about to take off.
And even though Borton couldn’t make this year’s Sculpture Splash event, his art pieces did. Township community arts council president Morlene Thomilson said an old friend of Borton’s, Paul Steele, a courier, had volunteered to not only haul all of his works, but to also help other artists set up the show, all for free.
“Howard’s house is in the middle of nowhere in Sooke, but yet he [Steele] went out with his five-ton truck and he picked up all of his work,” she said.
“He installed it, he helped other artists install their work, and at the end of the exhibition he took everything back and offered to deliver any pieces that were sold.”
As it turns out, it was just in time for Borton’s unique chrome pieces to shine against the sky, as he passed away just days before the event.
Rossner said that while his presence at the show was missed, at least his pieces remain in everyone’s memory forever.
“He was a man who wanted to create joy, surprise and delight in people. He certainly accomplished that,” she said.