Skilled sculptor brings wooden eagles to life

The eagle falls from the sky, its feathers curved with the force of the wind, its huge talons reaching upwards.

WES SEELEY ESTIMATES he's invested 1

WES SEELEY ESTIMATES he's invested 1

The eagle falls from the sky, its feathers curved with the force of the wind, its huge talons reaching upwards.

From wingtip to wingtip, the bird measures 10 feet.

Its current home is a 20×30-foot garage. But someday, wood sculptor Wes Seeley hopes his eagle will soar in a much larger space.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” the Comox resident says. “I’d like to see this piece somewhere like the Vancouver Airport, a large casino or high-end hotel.”

He’s put in 1,500 hours on the project and estimates he has another 2,500 hours to go, 40 on the head alone.

When complete, a second eagle will join the first in its plunge towards earth.

But the coolest thing about Seeley’s work-in-progress is that it moves.

“When it’s finished, it will hang by a single wire sort so it will be constantly moving like a giant mobile,” explains Seeley. “This sculpture wants to dance; I knew that before I carved the first feather.”

Although the eagle looks heavy, it currently weighs about 25 pounds.

Suspended from the ceiling in the single-car garage, it has a huge presence in more ways than one. And when I touch it with a finger, it springs to life in an almost magical way.

Seeley started whittling on pieces of wood as a youngster growing up on Quadra Island. As his skills developed, he carved sailboats to launch on local streams.

His love of wood led to a career in the logging industry as a boom man. While away at North Island camps, he carved detailed replicas of fishing boats, complete with rigging, supplies and everything else you’d expect to onboard.

Three years ago, Seeley created his first life-sized eagle.

His current project is larger than life, and, after viewing photographs, it’s obvious that his skilful handling of the medium and subject matter has also increased substantially.

“There’s been a real progression to find my style and develop the technique,” admits Seeley. “But I love woodwork and I love eagles so it seems like a good marriage of interests. I’m in no hurry to leave this form.”

Working as a boom man, Seeley has lots of opportunity to observe his subjects. He also collects photographs of eagles so he can closely study the fold of wing and flare of feather.

He primarily uses red and yellow cedar and Douglas fir scrounged from logging camp burn piles, occasionally purchasing aromatic cedar for contrast.

“I really pay attention to the wood,” he says. “I love it when knots go right through a piece; it really adds something to the sculpture.”

Seeley cuts each feather individually, then sands and varnishes them. They are then individually glued and screwed to the frame, which swoops and curves to replicate the dynamics of a real bird’s wing. Seeley’s eagles are three-dimensional, so each sculpture is completely finished front and back.

As well as teaching himself how to handle wood, Seeley is developing his marketing savvy.

A few years ago, he was working on a log boom up island when he noticed a 120-foot yacht pull into the bay.

“It was summertime and I was all sweaty and dirty but I had photos of one of my eagles with me so rowed out to the yacht in the beat up boom boat,” recalls Seeley. “A little voice in my head kept saying, ‘They’re not going to talk to you.’ But another one said, ‘You won’t know until you try.’ ”

After one look at the photos, the millionaire bought the eagle, and it now hangs in a downtown Seattle office.

“I dream of being able to sculpt fulltime and build a bigger shop out back,” the 53-year-old says. “Right now, I have to knock on doors to sell my work but maybe it will be the other way around later.”

“What I really enjoy is the journey of creating something,” he continues. “That is very rewarding.”

This year, Seeley showed his current work-in-progress at Originals Only in August, and he will be at the Lighthouse Community Centre in Qualicum Bay for Art Expo Nov. 5 and 6.

You can also check out his work online at www.wesseeley.com. His studio is open by chance or by phoning 250-890-0241 to make an appointment.

Or drive by 2211 Gull Ave. in Comox to see if the garage door is open. Seeley welcomes visitors and says folks often stop for a chat when they see what he’s doing.

 

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