Kamloops sculptor casting Canada’s forefathers in bronze

  • Feb. 9, 2020 6:30 a.m.
Sculptor Nathan Scott adds detail to the tremendous clay mutton chops of John Abbott. Looking on is the ill-fated John Thompson (front right), the 68-day leader Charles Tupper (back right) and Mackenzie Bowell (back left). (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week)
John Abbott, set atop a wooden crate, holds a newspaper etched with the scales of justice, alluding to his profession as a lawyer, one of many “Easter eggs” added to the piece. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week)

–– Kamloops This Week

A Kamloops sculptor’s work has taken him far back into Canada’s parliamentary history, as he has been tasked with casting four of Canada’s earliest leaders in bronze.

When the work by sculptor Nathan Scott is completed, school groups, tourists and the history-curious will encounter the group of four men along the Prime Ministers Path near the historic Castle Kilbride, just outside of Waterloo, Ont.

From 1891 to 1896, Canada saw four prime ministers in quick succession: John Abbott, John Thompson, Mackenzie Bowell and Charles Tupper.

The path’s current sculpted occupants include prime ministers Kim Campbell, William Lyon Mackenzie King, John A. Macdonald, Lester B. Pearson and another piece done by Scott, Robert Borden.

The current set of four prime ministers is Scott’s largest work to date, and the first he will cast in Kamloops.

When KTW visited Scott at his shop in Knutsford, heavy snow blocked what he could normally see — a view that extends far up the North Thompson Valley, even to Sun Peaks.

“My eyesight is actually getting better now. I can actually see better farther,” he said.

That clarity came with the family’s decision to trade their home on Vancouver Island for one in Knutsford.

On one trip back home, Scott recalled stopping by a realtor in Merritt, entertaining the idea of moving to an area he had always liked. By the time he and his family reached the ferry to cross back home to the island, they had made their decision.

“We said, ‘Let’s move,’” he told KTW. “And, six months later, we did.”

Scott’s new view has brought about changes to much of his work. He shut down the foundry he operated in Saanich and no longer casts bronze for other artists. In fact, he’s only now starting the process to get his own foundry operating once again, where he plans to cast the four prime ministers.

Four clay men currently sit in Scott’s shop, adorned with details outlining their past and setting them in time. To get to this point, it has taken Scott two months, carefully measuring, forming, sculpting and etching details to bring the earthen material to life.

The process involves first creating the sculpture in clay. Once the forms have been finalized, a polyurethane rubber mould is created over the pieces that captures even the finest details. This mould is then used to create a fibreglass mother mould, into which wax is poured, with the thickness of the wax determining the thickness of the final bronze sculpture.

“All bronzes are hollow, except for the little pieces,” Scott said as he explained, showing works around his shop in various stages of what is called the lost-wax process.

The wax is then dipped in a ceramic material and coated in silica sand. A pouring cup is attached that allows the bronze inside.

After the piece is heated up to about 980 C — a necessary step to prevent thermal shock — liquid bronze at a temperature of 1,065 C is poured inside, quickly cooling in about 20 seconds, Scott said.

After 10 minutes, the ceramic shell is cracked off and the piece undergoes a sandblasting treatment, leaving a final form that needs further work to remove rough edges and add colour.

Scott, a 50-year-old father of five, said he has his work cut out for him, with completed sculptures due in Ontario by June 20.

“After I’m done welding all the pieces together, I polish or retexture the welds and do a bronze patina. I use ferric nitrate to get the browns, a silver nitrate to get the silvers, a liver of sulfur to get different colours,” he said.

Those colours will be used to reveal “Easter eggs” — details pertaining to the men’s lives and occupations meant to be noticed by those paying closer attention to the works, like school groups looking for more tactile realizations of what they have already read in books.

One such detail is the object held by Bowell — an orange, hinting at his religious life as past Grandmaster of the North American Orange Order. Other details are more direct, like the stethoscope protruding from Tupper’s jacket pocket — a nod to the former prime minister’s work as a physician.

“You have to do it without ruining the sculpture, so you have to get creative and clever, and it’s been a lot of fun in that sense,” Scott said of the details he has added to his work.

The quartet is the second piece from Scott that has been commissioned by Createscape, the group behind the Prime Ministers Path. But his other commissioned works have landed across Canada, to the point where it’s easier for him to name the provinces his work does not appear in — Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, to name a few.

His past sculptures include two Terry Fox memorials, Anne of Green Gables author Ella Montgomery in P.E.I., a coal miner in Sparwood, a hockey faceoff in Alberta, Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Vulcan, Alta., a navy seaman and homecoming scene in Victoria and dozens of other public and private commissions, all created over the past 21 years.

With Scott now enjoying rural life just outside Kamloops, he said he is appreciating the slower pace and more beautiful view, thankful to be at the point in his career where he can work from wherever he chooses.

“We just love it. I’m living the dream here,” he said.

Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

historyKamloops

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo: Twitter@SurreyRCMP)
Surrey Mounties, pet owners, bracing for Halloween

Last year the Surrey RCMP received 147 fireworks complaints on Diwali and 121 on Halloween

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police investigating after another teen girl followed in Tsawwassen

Police say a man in a burgundy car approached teen girls on at least two, possibly three occasions

White Rock RCMP are searching for Richard John Lewis, who is wanted on warrants for assault and uttering threats. (RCMP handout)
White Rock RCMP searching for wanted man

Richard John Lewis is wanted on warrants for assault, uttering threats

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Seven more Surrey schools reporting COVID-19

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

The B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch has issued a decision about the actions of an elementary school teacher in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley elementary teacher suspended for grabbing, shoving, yelling at kids

Roxann Rojas will lose her legal authority to teach for two weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2020

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read