Decades worth of silver-plated heirlooms combined with a lull in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life and an adventurous metalworker to create a unique work of art for a Cowichan Valley couple, and a tribute to their respective mothers.
Betty and Norm Worthy had both inherited their mothers’ wedding gifts, which included silver teapots, coffee urns and tableware. After years of packing them around in a box, they recently decided it was time to either do something with them or get rid of the box.
The idea had been developing for a couple of years until the Worthys had time to work on it.
“The pieces sat in the box waiting for the right time,” Betty says. “During this ‘season of pause’ the box came out of hiding and we had the time to complete the project.
Betty came up with the idea of cutting them into halves and quarters and displaying them, along with a few “bits and bobs” of their own, like spoons marking Betty’s accomplishments as a 4-H member in her youth, and brass candlesticks from Norm and Betty’s own wedding.
The arrangement is based on a mandala, a Hindu concept of four quadrants radiating out from a central point. Being a tribute to their mothers, the Worthys dubbed it a “Mumdala.”
The idea was only the first step, however. The execution was a whole other story. It turns out that it’s not as easy as it sounds to slice up silverware. Because of the hinges and other fine elements on the pieces, welding and fabrication shops didn’t want to take it on. Finally, one shop in Chemainus recommended a local metal-work artist who asked that his full name not be used, but who the Worthys call “Gord, the backyard wonder.”
“It never would have worked out well if he hadn’t taken it on,” Betty says.
“Gord was willing to try the tricky job of halving the teapots with the understanding that if he was not successful, there would be no hard feelings. Gord exceeded all our expectations and presented us with a box of expertly halved teapots, and platter stands and candlesticks. All different metals, and some handles which were not metal at all.”
Why was he able to do what so many shops wouldn’t?
“Just ‘cause I wanted to,” he laughs. “If someone has a creative thing they want to do, if I can help, I’ll help.”
Although he has moved on after years as a metal artist, Gord was convinced by his wife, Heather — who died in February — to help with the project. Heather, Gord says, did the bulk of the work helping the Worthys, while he just handled the cutting. In addition to having been a metal artist, he has also worked as a sculptor for the film industry, and dabbled in chainsaw carving and painting.
“I love learning,” he explains. “There’s always something I can do for a while.”
More than five feet across and four feet high, the final product is now mounted on the side of the Worthys’ home. They are pleased with how it turned out, and will be reflecting on it this Mothers Day. Betty’s mom is still alive, while Norm’s mom has died.
“This project is a testament to two women who saw the beauty of their wedding gifts and kept them, till we were handed them,” Betty Worthy says. “Then we saw the beauty and wanted to display them so all who saw could see, enjoy, and chuckle over the Mumdala.
“Without Gord catching the vision and being so willing and skilled at metal work, none of this would have happened. Now we have a bizarrely beautiful art piece from our mothers and we get to smile at how it all came together.”