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Labor of Love

Phil White

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Hi all,


I just finished the sculpture below as a retirement gift for a man who dedicated the last 37 years to designing and carving stone sculpture for the Canadian Parliament Buildings, (which has been ongoing since 1917). He became the "Dominion Sculptor" in 1993, sort of like Canada's official sculptor, and just recently retired.


The sculpture is a variation on the "self-made man" theme, which usually depicts a carver freeing, or creating himself, from a block of stone. In this piece, he is also in the process of carving the top of the Peace Tower, which is the central feature of the Parliament Buildings, and is creating himself in the process.


It was carved from a block of Indiana limestone, with traditional hand tools only, and is about 12" high. The base is white ash, stained to match the woodwork in the building.







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Aloha Phil,


I could leave you with descriptives, but I want to tell you how it makes me feel. I'm a working stiff; I feel my toes bunching up in my right boot. I feel the weight of the mallet in my hand and the chisel biting with each tap. I am concentrating on that point right in front of me. My knee aches.

Good job. :)



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Guest ford hallam

Hi Phil,


Great piece of work, and as others have already said, a lovely tribute. So, are we to gather that you are now a "chip off the old block"? :) ...and are you training someone who will be up to the task of making a similar tribute to you one day? I hope so. :)


Namaste, Ford

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I thought this would resonate with the carvers here.


I actually took over the position officially last year, but he stayed on in a mentoring role. At the moment, I am working alone, but hopefully the future will allow for some assistance in the form of an apprentice.


Thanks to all of you for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts.



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Thanks Mike, and welcome to the forum.


Hi Karl,


Very clever! Maurice was the subject of this sculpture. He took over the position of Dominion Sculptor in 1993, when Eleanor retired. The title changed somewhere in the mid-nineties to Federal Government Sculptor, but most people seem to use the old name. Eleanor is still active, doing private commissions, and is now in her early eighties. She is a great lady, and quite a character.


When Maurice decided to retire, they held a national competition to fill the position of Federal Sculptor, and strangely enough, I won. I took over the position about a year and a half ago, and Maurice stepped down, but continued working as a carver, and a mentor.


Carlos Ventin was involved with the restoration of the Ontario Provincial Parliament in Toronto, but not with the national Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (which is also in the province of Ontario)


The Parliament Buildings (there are 5) in Ottawa were built in the mid to late 19th century, in the Gothic Revival style. In 1916, fire destroyed the central building, and it was re-built over the next 20 years or so. When it was built, the architect left about 3,000 uncarved blocks sticking out of the walls, for future generations of carvers and sculptors. He left no specific designs for any of the pieces, and the work is still unfinished, with about 20 years work remaining.


The House of Commons has an excellent website that describes the carvings and sculptures in detail, with good photos:




The section on "Heritage Spaces" describes the architectural stone sculpture, the section on "Decorative Arts" describes the wood carvings and decorative ironwork, and the section on "Fine Arts" gets into the more moveable artworks. Also, the links have a lot of info on the history of the buildings, etc. It is well worth a look, and has something in it for everyone, whether you are into wood, metal, or stone.



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