Dynamis Mirage Eye by Kate Tupper

I started writing for grants almost a year ago, thinking of this series of sculpture that I wanted to build. Most of my pieces take around 500 hours to complete so I knew I needed several financial sources in order to be able to produce the numbers I wanted to the level of detail I love. This early spring I was happy to receive a B.C. Arts Council grant and this late spring a CKCA grant that together make this body of work possible. I have many pieces cut and formed and several almost finished, I look forward to a fall of creation thanks to these arts grants. I am a very lucky happy lady. Check out an excerpt of my artist statement below for more insight as to where I'm headed.


A series of mild steel sculptures, activating mythological power objects.

Formed, fitted, welded, hand painted specimens.  A collection of enchanted 3D botanics. Hybrid, cocooned mysteries. Ethereal obscurities. Crystal, barnacle, matrix technologies. Fantastical dreamy components. Devices of Sci Fi myth. 

I utilize sculpture for modern day storytelling. As mythology throughout history helped humans make sense of their world, I strive to do the same with ours. Several years ago I had a vision, and developed a personal style that had the potential to hold the information I was assembling. I was hoping the work would become devices of connection within our place, each other, and ourselves. Imagery can be utilized creating objects to help keep humanity grounded, while evolving quickly into a world of technology.

Science Fiction has long been used to predict possible futures and address fundamental human relationship themes in fact-based, imagination-fuelled prophesy. It’s a great platform for the classical themes of man vs man, himself, and nature. I think that, as in the myths and fairytales of our past, storytelling still has the ability to educate about our environment and our place in it. I utilize current information about our origins and our world; the implications of our interactions. By addressing what we know and by telling edgy, embellished, beautiful stories, we can hypothesize solutions without being restrained by our technology, good taste, or sensibilities. The beauty of using Science Fiction to tell a story is in the vein of truth; its origin is based in fact. Hitting people deeper than they realize, I spin visual myth that connects most viewers on some level.

In many stories, an enchanted object is linked to transformation, to healing, opening, and connection, and often the true power of the object is inside the protagonist all along. Sometimes we just need something tangible to remind us of this. In readings, the recipe for such an object requires that, while building, the maker holds the true intention of the work in their heart. Visually, the work should reflect the same story through use of colour, texture, and symbolism, and should closely represent the intended purpose. I build objects that reflect the visual patterns I study,  continuing to investigate what it takes to unite our community locally and globally through a common consciousness; a mechanical solidarity through affinity.

I use organic visual elements in an attempt to connect us to the earth; to keep the work grounded and relevant. These details are what I usually consider to be the tangible part of the sculpture; the real touchables. I take cues from anything in my world whose form fits the story, the feeling I am attempting to portray.  I study the landscapes and lifestyles of flora and the geography surrounding us, absorbing their visual information and converting it into fractal geometry-based patterns, wound with symbolism. There’s an underwritten code in nature, a drama to the physical attributes of plants, displaying waves in spirals, branches branching, colour to call attention. So often, there is a contradiction of soft petals and thorny protection. My stories are similarly balanced with the dark and the light, tarnished silver, dark romance. 



Good Bye Art Party by Kate Tupper



Nakusp Art Party! What a success! Over the last few years, we’ve brought together many friends to create something for this village that was beyond our wildest dreams.  We didn’t even think we’d make any money at the first one, and ended up with aprons and ziplocks full of cash stuffed and hidden in strange places. Nakusp was thirsty for art, and for a party, let’s be honest. When I dreamt up Art Party and pitched it to my friends, my premise on its including all the arts was this: we don’t have a lot of artists in town so we can’t specialize, and I wanted something that anyone who enjoyed art and partying could come out to and support the cause, which was to raise funds for my sculpture, Looking Aft, which now sits on the M.V. Columbia. Thank you to everyone who contributed to that project and party. What amazing support you receive as an artist in a small community. 

We couldn’t believe the success, and our town was so connected and affected by it that someone suggested we do two Art Parties a year, and that happened. Somewhere along the way, I lost the plot.  I was supposed to be building sculpture, but I was somehow volunteering way too many hours to a fundraiser, albeit one that I was passionate about. I tried to do everything for everyone, but I wasn’t strong enough.  I resented the party for stealing time from my practice and my family. Eventually, I overworked myself into a breakdown. 

As you can imagine, throwing an art party is a ton of work. It has been executed four times, now, by a solid group of friends who believe in the idea and foundations of it - an excellent varied, original, arts experience - a great party for our community, with raised funds going to public arts events in the Nakusp area. I hope to continue to show work as I produce it to trial in our town before it leaves for other locations. Other than that, I have to personally step out of Art Party to continue on my journey of sculpture. Over the last two years, the small idea I had about an art party was developed by many contributors and became a thing much larger than Nakusp could have imagined.You’ve all been begging for another Art Party and these good people are committed to bringing it to you. A wise lady once told me, “You can bake the cake and let someone else ice it.” 

Spark Tart out.


Coming Together Building the Thundercone by Kate Tupper

In my second year leading the Farm Decor team, working for the site of Shambhala Music Festival, there was a request for a special project full of romance - a place of connection - a wedding chapel of zero denomination. I decided the structure should suit the landscape. The vibe would be woodsy. The viewers who occupy this place once a year are their own sort of magical and so deserved something whimsically radiant.

Thundercone top detail picture courtesy of the Emjay

Thundercone top detail picture courtesy of the Emjay

The Thundercone is a geometric, organic sculpture. Its silhouette wraps around like a veil or the arms of your loved ones. Inspired by the build site surroundings and communicated like nature through repetition of shape in steel organic elements, its details form a beautiful fairy-like structure with elements of pinecone topped with mutant flowers inspired by the downtown gardens. The main frame is constructed from 76 old steel school chairs left for years in the Shambhala warehouse yard. We cut, coped, and welded every single triangle in the main frame from chair legs. That was a crazy amount of work, math and eye-balling. The bolts from the chairs topped with weld became a tiny mushroom detail. You would never be able to execute this project with modern chairs, with their paper thin sides. The build materials survived the years and aged to a beautiful patina of rust and chipping soft metallic green paint which drove the colour story. I ordered automotive pigments to compliment a dusty rose and velvet green, cinnamon bronze, pearly white. The steel foliage detail climbing up evolved from the murkiness of the swamps that skirt the Salmo River. Details are constructed from 20 gauge mild sheet metal, plasma cut by our team, pounded concave with a ball pean on a two by four. As with my other sculptures, weld is used to highlight the systems, to provide movement and connection between the elements.

One of the 76 old chairs we utilized to build the main structure of the Thundercone

One of the 76 old chairs we utilized to build the main structure of the Thundercone

The hardest part of being a lady welder is landing your first job and getting the work experience and hours to complete your apprenticeship. My first break came from a lady machinist who hired both me and my friend, Robin. After you have proved yourself, every company wants to hire you to fill their minority quota, it seems. It was a goal in the back of my mind that someday I would be in a place where I could offer the same type of support to my sisters. When I made the decision that the Shambhala wedding chapel would be built out of steel, I knew this was my opportunity to collect a team of lady welders. Through friends as well as the STEP Skilled Trades Employment Program in Nelson, I hustled a team of three ladies: Emma, Georgia and Emily, and at the last minute my friend Brad joined us as a token dude. It was a dedicated lovely crew.

Welder Babes same pants party from left to right Georgia Lee, Emma Zener and me, Kate Tupper. Missing Emily Musa and Brad Zimmerman

Welder Babes same pants party from left to right Georgia Lee, Emma Zener and me, Kate Tupper. Missing Emily Musa and Brad Zimmerman

An electrical plug was installed for my welder and plasma cutter in the food court sitting area downtown Shambhala, and the dining room became our welding shop/studio. It was a harsh change from the privacy of my secret Nakusp space, building sculpture by myself, never revealing it until completion. Switch to having a bunch of pre-show worker visitors three times a day  (breakfast lunch supper) all checking out and following your progress/process. Inside I was freaking out and several times I crankily kicked people out of the work zone.  However, I eventually came around and got used to the audience, let go of control and remembered to trust that my instincts and skill set would carry the project through and that it would be beautiful. 

Ride the Cone! We welded and twerked on the top

Ride the Cone! We welded and twerked on the top

The reality of life is, you can plan and scheme but nature has its own plans that stretch from before we arrived and farther past when we will be gone. I designed based on a build site. The tragedy of the giant cedar with four tops two coming down in a storm leaving two remaining creaking and cracking, caused the arborists to be called for safety and they dropped the two remaining tops directly where the thunder cone would be installed, smashing the beautiful hazelnut that had draped the site, that had inspired the silhouette of the design, annihilating many trees behind and just crushing the landscape. It seemed to be unfixable from my point of view, however my co-workers, Perry and Jeff proved me wrong by excelling at what they contribute to the site and healed the area as best they could with what they had. 

My friends Tyler and Lee arrived for the final Farm Dec shift before the show and built gorgeous rock work to elevate the chapel. While Shauna, Georgia , Miranda and I painted details and our hearts out. I Got up at five AM for several mornings and dried the dew off with a blow dryer so I could explore the path of painting before the rest of the team arrived. 

Myself and my beautiful wife Anita reenact our wedding vows once the chapel is properly situated, with Jackie as our witness.

Myself and my beautiful wife Anita reenact our wedding vows once the chapel is properly situated, with Jackie as our witness.

In the building of a sculpture there are always many lessons. For me, sometimes the purpose of the work seems a bit unclear until BAM! it hits you. I had a moment of clarity the week after we finished metal fabrication of the Thundercone, right before we began to paint her. Sitting there in her naked steel birthday suit, the chapel called to us and my friend Anita asked me if I wanted to get married, be the first? I said yes and we vowed in front of the diners. Although mine were garbled, it struck me that the Thundercone was a place not only for lovers to commit their lives to each other, it could also be a place for friends to go through the act of saying vows. Why you love that person, why you are friends, why you want to spend the rest of your lives together.

I had always intended it to be a space of connection but I had not predicted the way the structure would call to friends and lovers to sit on the rock steps of the temple and gaze into each others' eyes, it became a place of complete bliss. And so I suggest next year if you are lucky enough to attend Shambhala Music Festival that you visit the chapel not only with your physical lovers, but also with the humans in your life that you cherish, no matter if you have known them for ten years or five minutes. I would love you to Come Together.


Re Generation by Kate Tupper

Way back in January I returned to my old high school, Nakusp Secondary, to work with students on an Art Starts Design Thinking project. This was a very cool challenge for me because over the last two years I've been paying close attention to my personal design/build process. I have been especially observant of a few key ingredients for success:

Input/output balance. First research and development then creation. Inspiration! you cannot pull from an empty, tired mind.

Accept that the project will hit all sorts of phases and for sure be super ugly for long periods of time.

Dream If you have a direction and a dream it is much easier to push past design and physical obstacles; to relax inside the entire process.

Remember it's all about process - the joy of building something new and the elation when dreams become reality.


Re generation is a student-designed and built mild steel sculpture that explores themes around nature's cycles, relating to the venue and humans we designed for: Nakusp Secondary School. We identified that schools work in a cycle; every year, new students arrive and some leave. It’s a story of maturation over again.

Re generation   The birch sheds its leaves through the seasons, relating to the cycle of education. Every Spring students move on through graduation, every Fall new additions arrive

Re generation The birch sheds its leaves through the seasons, relating to the cycle of education. Every Spring students move on through graduation, every Fall new additions arrive

Six days is not a lot of time to design and build a sculpture. I'll usually think and sketch about something for a year or so and then take five hundred hours or more to construct it. Six days was a challenge, but we did it! This is a short version of our steps.

Becoming an Artist team  We worked together as a team to embody the many aspects of creating work for the public and sharing it in a modern accessible way. Each team member has their own strengths and wisdom to share, and as a team we appreciate everyone's gifts and input.

Design thinking As artists, we don't just create the physical work, we often create an entire story. What is the story of Nakusp Secondary School?

Immersion into the creative process Entertaining all ideas, in this phase of design anything is possible. Gravity can't stop us and no idea is too silly or unattainable for our team.

Building and Exploring Most steel comes in some type of two dimensional form. In order to take it to the third dimension, careful planning is necessary due to the expensive nature of the medium and the time it takes to convince it into a pleasing shape.

Paper leaves designed by student ready to be transformed by technology 

Paper leaves designed by student ready to be transformed by technology 

Execution of physical sculpture The main frame of the sculpture is mild steel pipe of various sizes donated by Waterbridge Steel. First, with rolls of paper to test ideas and then the real thing, we manually cold bent the frame by utilizing and exploring the effects of different shop tools. The smaller branches were shaped from offcuts from my own studio and were shaped in the same way as the pipe. Following that, we welded on the steel leaves and birch bark we had cut out.

Parts of this sculpture (the leaves and birch bark detail) were designed in paper by the students, transferred to a digital file by me, and then custom profiled here in town. By utilizing industry technology we were able to cut down on shop time, the human element, and the skills needed to manually cut out multiple parts with precision ... the kind of cutting it takes years to master.

The leaves were painted with gold automotive pigments and paint that I use on my sculpture work and should pick up the light in all seasons, but especially could bring warmth to a barren Winter landscape.

The final resting place of this project is still under discussion, but will be installed somewhere, sometime. I'll keep you posted.