A house with a large metal wall art on the front of it.

"Our mural is definitely one of a kind, unique. You have created a design based on our general suggestions that truly reflects what we imagined. Thank you again."
Dave S., Cranbrook

A black background with some white writing on it

A Metalwork Process From Start to Finish

A Metalwork Process From Start to Finish
A man standing next to a large stuffed animal cat.

After an initial consultation and deposit received, research is undertaken. In this case, photos and measurements taken during a visit to a taxidermist proved a useful addition to images in library books. The concept of a life size cougar as the focal point of a steel mural can now be drawn and shown to the customer.

A bear walking in the woods with trees and mountains behind it.

A sketch is produced to accurately reflect the specific wishes of the customer. The Steeples mountain range near Cranbrook BC was requested. It was agreed at this stage that the cougar will be made in layers, to stand out from the background. A big horn sheep and a loon were included as part of the background, and the final design approved.

A person standing in front of a screen

The sketch is made into a full size drawing by digitally projecting the image onto a vertical steel sheet. The lines in light are outlined with chalk directly onto the steel background. It is easier to see the projected image in a darkened room. The size of the finished mural will be 10 feet wide by 5 feet high.

A person working on a painting of animals.

The background design is plasma cut from solid steel sheet. Dark glasses, an apron and leather gloves are worn for safety. Clothing is 100% cotton to prevent sparks from melting fabric onto skin and causing burns.

A painting of trees and mountains on the side of a building.

The mural is sprayed with a compound to enhance the surface rusting process, as a rusted finish was requested.

A metal plate with some writing on it

Lines are drawn onto the steel, then chased with a hammer and chisel on the flat surface. Ink and chalk lines are lost when the steel is heated in the forge. The etched lines form part of the overall design and guide the raising of features into a third dimension.

A man is working on an iron object.

The cougar body, head and tail are cut out separately and forged over a dished tree stump to create a three dimensional effect. Water is used to cool some areas. Heat is applied to parts that need to be hammered into shape from both sides.

A fire is burning in the dark.

The cougar's tail is heated in the coke fired hearth until the steel turns a bright orange, at which point it is ready to be forged into the desired shape.

A man welding metal in an industrial setting.

An angle frame is welded to the back of the mural to distance the piece from the wall and increase rigidity.

A cat sculpture with blue eyes and some paint on it.

Hand made dichroic fused glass eyes are added as a decorative feature. Small holes are drilled into the face to enable whiskers to be welded from the back. Spacers hold one layer away from the next.

A room with a large wooden board and some paint

The mural is coated with double boiled linseed oil to darken and protect the rusted finish. The tail has been welded into place. The body and head will be added on site to reduce the total weight during installation.

A metal sculpture of a bear on the side of a building.

Fixings drilled into wall studs hold the mural securely in position, slightly away from the wall to create shadow lines.

A black background with some white lines
A group of people walking in the street at night.

“The Christmas Yule Blog” was previewed on ET Canada on November 5 2020 and shown on City TV in Canada in December of that year. The Lifetime holiday movie was released in the United States in November 2020 and was an amazing experience for Sandra to make felt and work with her daughter Florence on a film.

A black background with some white writing on it

Feltmaking Process

Feltmaking Process
A woman holding up two boxes of tomatoes.

Sandra was invited to Kelowna, BC to make felt motifs for an “ugly poncho” scene in a movie made for television. Sandra’s daughter Florence was the costume designer who wanted something original and distinctive. Imagine shopping for Christmas decorations in the first summer of the Pandemic, July 2020. Florence made it happen!

A santa clause doll with a hat and beard.

On arrival, Sandra was given a wish list of motifs with instructions that “speed felting” was essential. There was no time in the filming schedule to perfect the process. Sometimes prompted as here by an image provided, children’s colouring books or pure imagination, Sandra started sketching. She only had limited time to finish making all of her work.

A person sitting at a table with a dog.

As an authorized DHG reseller, Sandra brought plenty of commercial pre-felt from her Fernie studio with her, which speeded up the process. Making twelve motifs for the cast ponchos in only four days was a challenge accepted. Here is Sandra cutting out a cactus freehand, knowing that the finished felt will shrink by 30%.

A woman sitting in a chair holding up a paper doll.

Although actually filmed in Summerland, BC the movie was supposedly set in New Mexico just before Christmas, so all of the decorations had to be bright and colourful with a Mexican twist. Hence, Santa wears a sombrero instead of his usual style hat.

A long table with a large quilt on it

Each motif had to be approved by Lifetime Productions in the USA before it could be used. The wet felting process of adding warm, soapy water and rolling to attach each layer of felt was repeated daily. Motifs dried overnight on towels and work in progress photos were taken at the end of each day.

A santa clause sitting on top of a chair.

Different materials were suggested to embellish details onto the felt, but ultimately Florence as costume designer had to approve all work before sending photos to the network. There were six people in the costume department, all with different tasks. Sandra’s felted motifs were sewn onto ponchos by others.

A woman sitting at a table with many gifts.

New Christmas decorations arrived daily from the team shopping in Kelowna. This was a time consuming task with Covid protocols in all stores limiting the number of customers entering. Sandra was able to incorporate some decorations by sewing them onto the felt to create three dimensional images.

A table with some paper cut outs of snowmen

Sandra’s idea of using the back and front of ponchos to illustrate the back and front of snowmen was approved and included. The snowmen had red peppers instead of carrots for noses and used tartan as a colourful alternative to a snowman’s typical attire. Working out the back and front placement was a fun task.

A man in a costume with a wreath on his chest.

As part of the pre-production process, each actor had to wear each finished costume in every scene and have it approved by the network before filming could begin. Here is Francisco Trujillo cast as Roberto Ortiz in the film, wearing his poncho with a truck, mountain and sunset background, designed and felted by Sandra.

A man in a colorful dress standing next to purple flowers.

We all worked hard as a team, sometimes working 16 hour days to create original and creative costumes in time for filming. Here is Sandra’s finished cactus which includes real three dimensional spikes felted onto the prefelt bottom layer, worn by one of the local production crew. All of this effort was for only one scene!

A woman in costume standing next to a red van.

Sometimes the actors weren’t tall enough and had to stand on boxes, which obviously didn’t appear in the final version of the film. Mama, played by Peg Barcelo is wearing Sandra’s Saint Nicholas inspired poncho. Standing beside her is Dean Paul Gibson who played Mr. C.

A man and woman dressed in costumes for halloween.

Former “Vampire Diaries” actress Sara Canning played the lead rôle of Caroline Williams, wearing the Santa with sleigh and reindeer poncho made by Sandra in this scene with Zak Santiago as Oscar Ortiz, wearing one of her snowmen ponchos. The ugly poncho parade scene was filmed at night.