Artist’s life anything but a grind

In the art world Ernest Bundschuh is fast becoming the man of steel.

Artist and crafter Ernest Bundschuh shows off one of his finished works of steel (above) which combines functionality and beauty and require many hours of intensive labour.

Artist and crafter Ernest Bundschuh shows off one of his finished works of steel (above) which combines functionality and beauty and require many hours of intensive labour.

In the art world Ernest Bundschuh is fast becoming the man of steel. Although metal working has been his calling for nearly three decades and art his passion since he was a kid, it was only recently the two worlds began to merge. “It really wasn’t until 2003 when I was down on the coast that I started looking at it seriously,” recalled the 46-year-old who initially planned to study art in university but opted to work on the oil field pipelines. “It (metal work) started out as a summer job and I got used to the money and never got out,” he said. But even during that time he continued to dabble in the arts, including drawing and water colours. “But I never made the connection because when you’re working the oil fields basically it’s round and a certain size and only turns at 45 and 90 degrees,” said Bundschuh about the finished product. “However, when I began doing this other stuff people started saying ‘I need some window bars. Can I have some dolphins on them?’ So I started building these things, but I didn’t really make a connection to sculptures because everything you’re doing is to pay the bills at the end of the month.” The metalcrafter acknowledged when he and wife Karen — who have enjoyed a rather nomadic existence living in a fifth wheel and on a sailboat — moved to Penticton they didn’t know what to expect. After opening his shop Bent & Beaten Metalcraft on Carmi Avenue, in between the regular jobs he found time to experiment more with the artistic end of the business. “It was more a matter of seeing what I could do,” said Bundschuh. “I have all this experience with moving metal in so many different directions and getting things out of it that people wouldn’t expect — I can make it act like Playdough — compared to what it is, steel.” While he used to do pre-design drawings of his works that’s no longer the case. “The little dragon here is totally from the hip,” he said putting his arm around Lucky, a nearly six-foot-tall free-form, mythical creature complete with removable shackles. “I just said one day I’m going to build a dragon, so I put a piece of round bar in the vice, started adding to it to get a basic shape and it evolved (200 hours later) to this point.” The metalcrafter does admit the dragon’s snout somewhat resembles that of the couple’s chihuahua who greets his master each morning in bed by standing on his chest. Bundschuh was all set to send Lucky off to an Interior art gallery a couple of weeks ago when a local woman decided she had to have the work. Which couldn’t have made him happier. “It’s funny because he (dragon) became like a part of the family, so I consider him as more adopted than sold,” he said. “I guess there is a little piece of myself in him as well.” The artist’s work — which now commands thousands of dollars from buyers — ranges from whimsical creations like the skeletal monkey on a skateboard to the incredible Sundown gate. The large, tarp-covered structure takes up nearly the entire length of his shop. Lit from within, it is framed by a pair of smiling crescent moons with two wolves staring out from beside a gnarly tree and the setting sun in the middle. It is currently for sale. About the his future direction Bundschuh said: “I haven’t charted that course yet, but I guess the one thing I would love is to be able to work on my sculptures. I can get up at four in the morning and work on them all day, everyday — just not having to be at any particular place at any particular time — to me that is freedom.”