“You gotta check this out,” says Philippe LeBlond, pointing to a steel barrel on wheels attached to his bike at the back of the garage.
The barrel has a sticker on it: Yukon Brewing.
“You can tell who our team sponsor is for the Kluane-Chilkat bike race,” he says, smiling mischievously.
Leblond’s seven teammates used his talents to good purpose, having him build a portable beer keg to haul along the team’s refreshments for the race.
It’s just one of many little delights in LeBlond’s Lewes Boulevard studio. He’s like a kid in a candy store in there – a store where the kid makes the candy.
With drills, saws, cutters, benders and welders, Leblond’s trademark metal constructions – some whimsical, some practical – are born here.
And he’s about to pass on some of his secrets to anyone who’s interested.
LeBlond is one of eight artists conducting workshops at the upcoming Atlin Arts and Music Festival, being held July 8-10. His may prove to be one of the more unusual in the lot.
LeBlond is known for his metalwork, kinetic sculpture, gadgets and doodads, using mostly recyclable materials. It’s been his philosophy and livelihood for most of his artistic and business career.
About a year ago he sold off his Whitehorse bike shop to practise his art full-time. Now he works out of his studio, designing bike racks, novelties and more formal works of art.
And he can take it on the road when he wants. He points to another homemade contraption in his garage, a pushcart with shelves, grips and various indentations. It’s a portable shop that would make any grease monkey green with envy.
“I can put my welder and gas cutter on there, compressor, my band saw, drills, just about everything we need,” he says. He’ll load that onto his signature rebuilt school bus for the drive to Atlin.
The six to eight people LeBlond can teach at his workshop are in for a treat. After they get together, he’ll herd them into the bus for a short trip out of town.
“Weather permitting, we’ll go to the dump in Atlin,” he says. “I’ll show them how to take the doors off fridges [a prime source of metal for his work] and look for other potential projects. So this will be a bit of a lesson in recycling as well as metalwork.”
The participants will take their found materials back to the workshop site and get a chance to use some of the main tools of LeBlond’s trade.
Cutting with a plasma torch, shaping with the bandsaw, grinding and brazing (a kind of soldering) are all part of the experience. The end result, he says, should be one of his classic raven signs to take home.
“This will be fun for anyone who is curious about the techniques and materials of metalworking,” he says. “They should also not be afraid of some sparks and noise.”
Leblond will provide safety goggles and takes pains to make sure the activity is safe as well as fun. No one has lost a finger in his workshops, he points out. But he does suggest you bring gloves. And wear long pants.
The other workshops promise to be just as much fun, if a bit more sedate. Bob Atkinson will teach a willow furniture workshop, Nicole Bauberger encaustic painting, Helen O’Connor oriental papermaking. Mary Beattie will teach felting, Patrick Royle raku pottery, Doreen Curniski acrylic painting and Harvey VanPatten whittling.
Festivalgoers can sign up for the workshops on a first-come, first-served basis when they arrive Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. All the workshops are free.
And if you just want to watch, you can do that too – the participants will be demonstrating their work all weekend.
Oh yes, about LeBlond’s bike relay team, “I’d Tap That”? It finished 57th in the mixed-eight category.