Artists are always on the move, trying to find the ideal location to set up shop.
In this way, sculptor Daniel Cline is not unlike so many others in the field, but happy to have settled in for many years now as a resident of Chemainus. After all, it’s where artists are supposed to be.
“We heard Chemainus was a town for artists,” said Cline, who’s approaching his 55th birthday in a month.
“The thing for me after high school was to go west and I never went west,” he added.
It was a long circuitous route to get here, but Cline finally made it.
Born in St. Catharines, Ont., he was only six months old when his family moved to Niagara Falls, Ont. Cline lived there until the age of 23, with a stop at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, before life’s journeys led him to many different locations and through several unique experiences.
Cline comes by his talents naturally.
“Ever since I was a kid, I did sculpture and drawing,” he said.
His half-brother Sandy Cline was a sculptor and he grew up under that influence.
“I never thought this was something I was going to do, necessarily,” Daniel conceded.
“My big interest when I was young was filmmaking.”
He went to college for film production and won a Telefest award from the CBC for a student film.
“After film school, I came back home in the mid-’80s,” Cline pointed out. “It was the recession and there was no work.”
His whole family was in a state of flux at the time, with different moves pending, and he wound up doing a lot of carving with Sandy in the parents’ garage.
“We’d sit in the studio and carve and chat about politics and world events and sculptures would get done,” Cline marvelled.
He had done 12 pieces and joined Sandy for a Christmas art show in Ottawa.
“I sold, I think, six of them and I made like $1,000,” Cline recalled. “A thousand dollars for a fresh out of college student was a lot of money.”
He later joined Sandy for three weeks in Florida.
“We did shows on the weekends and during the week we would carve,” noted Cline.
The parents had a fifth wheel and made the trek to the Sunshine State, creating a mini family reunion there.
Cline still couldn’t wrap his head around the concept of his brother’s life.
“It was a weird kind of thing to me, he did sculpture and he made money.”
Cline reinvested some of the money he made into tools and more stone for carving before he met eventual wife Ingrid and they moved to Glen Alda, Ont.
“We lived there for a few years,” he said. “We did art shows everywhere — Ottawa and all over Ontario. Every winter we’d go to Florida.”
In 1990, Daniel and Ingrid moved west with a two-year-old son in tow.
Ingrid’s family had moved out here so they followed suit, staying at first with her brother in Shawnigan Lake and then her sister in Mill Bay. They eventually got their own place in Cowichan Bay, found a place in Cobble Hill where Cline had his first studio and then made the trek to Lake Cowichan before winding up in Chemainus.
They know every corner of the Cowichan Valley well.
A couple of moves around Chemainus later and they wound up at their present Channel Boulevard location where they’ve been for 18 years.
“I built the studio there,” noted Cline. “I could design it myself.”
Since 1985, he’s been doing stone sculpting professionally. His talents are truly amazing to transform a piece of rock into something precious.
“I look at it, I start working on the stone and then I start to determine what I’m going to make out of it,” Cline explained.
The work he does might fall under the category of heavy-duty construction. A trio of whales he carved last year out of marble weighs around 950 pounds, an octopus 350 pounds and a lovely little seal tops the scales at 120 pounds.
You don’t need to have a geology degree for this kind of work, but it helps to know about the raw materials.
“After I became a stone sculptor, you start to learn more and more about geology and you start to learn all about the properties — say, marble,” Cline indicated.
He’s now the resident sculptor at B.C. Marble Products on the Trans Canada Highway and his work is known far and wide for being among the very best in the business.
“Two or three years ago, Steve Thorpe-Doubble called me and heard I was a person who knew a lot about marble,” Cline recalled. “As he was describing this marble he had, I realized in my studio I was carving a piece of their marble.”
The connection was made and Thorpe-Doubble, along with partner Tom Smith, offered work space at their business that turned him into an artist-in-residence.
Cline is excited about developments happening with his trade, particularly an international carving symposium from Aug. 11-Sept. 9 at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds.
“We’ll be finishing just as the (Cowichan) Exhibition opens,” noted Cline. “We’re getting a ready-made audience and a perfect location. They’ve got all the amenities we need right there.”