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The Sculpture Studio & Blue Whale Gallery: Making Change with David Hunwick

image of the blue whale skeleton at the beaty biodiversity museum

Blue Whale Skeleton at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum

For sculptor David Hunwick, working on large pieces comes with the territory. The proprietor of the The Sculpture Studio in Victoria, David recently opened the attached Blue Whale Gallery, an exhibition space for emerging artists named for the famous animal whose reconstruction occupied the space for two years. David was commissioned to mold and cast the ribcage of the massive skeleton now permanently on display at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC.

But while being involved involved in such a huge, unique project certainly opened a lot of doors for David, it was something much smaller that portended the biggest change in his life. It was a nickel.

We spoke to David about his life as a sculptor, his work in the art scene in Victoria and how a Canadian five-cent piece affected his move across the ocean.

Born southeast of London, England, David Hunwick remembers always having had dreams of emigrating as a child. But while a move West came later in life, his artistry did not. Attending fine arts schools from the beginning, David knew early on what he wanted to do.

“I’ve been sculpting for over 30 years. I have to make things. I cannot not make something. It’s just what I’m going to do – and I’ve always done it. Basically, since I’ve started training at art school I’ve exhibited every year, so it goes back to 1985 – in fact even before that, to 1981.”

image of David Hunwick's sculpture Boxing Hares

Boxing Hares, 2010

After graduating art school, David went into teaching. He taught art and design while continuing to exhibit and worked as an artist-in-residence and gallery manager at different times. With his wife, David moved North to Yorkshire and finally to Scotland where he settled. David’s work was well received, being featured in exhibits at The Royal Scottish Academy, Yorkshire Sculpture Park as well as in private collections in Scotland.

But the first glimmer of the major changes to come happened while on a visit to his mother in London, when David reached his hand into his pocket and found a Canadian 5-cent coin.

“Well, that’s curious, I thought. And at the time there was a TV program being aired about Canada. It started to happen wherever I looked – there was Maple Syrup on the shelf, for instance – and even at school when I was teaching, one of the students said ‘Sir, I really need help drawing this flag’ and of course it’s a Canadian flag. And I thought, ‘this is really weird!”

“I know about serendipity and all that, and after a while you get attuned to something and start thinking ‘well, maybe I’m just making this up”

“But then what happened was that my wife, who was a dance teacher, was offered a teaching job in Gibsons, on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. So on the strength of that, we sold everything we had in Scotland and moved out in 2001. We came with 21 boxes, a lot of dreams, and not much else.”

David and his wife also had two young children in tow. Faced with the enormity of the decision, he began to have if not exactly second thoughts, at the very least cold feet.

image of The Blue Whale Gallery logo

The Blue Whale Gallery

“I arrived and thought, ‘it’s beautiful, but what have I done? I must be crazy.’ So I went down to the beach in Gibsons and as I sat down on this driftwood, right beside me was this coin. And I thought, ‘Wow.’ It started with a coin in my pocket, and I thought, ‘I know I’m in the right place.’ So I picked it up and I said, ‘Right. I’m going to have to make this happen.”

David spent two years in Gibsons creating sculptures, teaching and working at the famed Harman Foundry. But David soon wanted more opportunity for his son’s schooling as well as other connections, so he moved on to Victoria. For five years, he continued to sculpt and teach.

“But I decided I wanted to really become master of my own destiny. There are too many variables depending on other people and I just really needed to make my own future, so I took the plunge. I did a year of business training and set up The Sculpture Studio.”

Taking advantage of a private business group in the area, David got help with business plans and focusing on his ideas, building up connections and getting established.

image of the 'elements' show at the blue whale gallery in victoria

‘elements’ Opening at The Blue Whale Gallery

“I was quite fortunate, because when I finished that, one of my first projects was working with the The Blue Whale Project.” Following on the heels of this amazing opportunity, The Sculpture Studio solidified its comprehensive molding and casting facility for commercial, corporate or institutional projects.

With that facet established, the next phase of the business involved the opening of a gallery. With more artists per capita than anywhere else in Canada, the opening of a new exhibition space is always a welcome addition to the community.

“The Blue Whale Gallery opened in November. We’ve had shows here before, but the difference now is that they can be ongoing. The idea is that we encourage new and emerging artists as well as more established artists and we’re having more performance based shows here as well.”

In addition to the exhibition space, The Sculpture Studio offers a variety of teaching opportunities.

“I have two other instructors that teach at the studio. There’s quite a desire from young people in particular for learning some technique and practical ways of creating images, whether it’s drawing or painting or learning how to sculpt. What I do with my teaching is I focus more on teaching expressionism and practical techniques on how to produce in a more open-ended form.”

But while the gallery is hosting successful exhibitions and the casting and molding side of the business is producing personal and commercial commissions, it’s personal time in the studio that really gets David excited.

“We get me as an artist doing my thing which is my passion. That’s why I’m doing all of this; the teaching, the gallery, so that I can actually create the opportunity for me to continue doing what I really love to do which is create original sculptures – and I’ve started painting again.”

image of David Hunwick's sculpture of a running hare

Running Hare, by David Hunwick

He’s had pieces on public display at the Sydney Sculpture Walk, the Kingsbury Sculpture Trail in New Brunswick as well at other events around Victoria.

But David’s Hunwick’s goal is to get more of his work out across Canada and beyond.

“I can create something for an airport, a museum, a garden, a gallery…or an individual who wants a portrait of their pet.”

It’s a common request, and the artist is happy to oblige, time permitting. He recently worked on another big project, the 20th Century Fox movie Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, but a cast statue of a beloved feline is completed with no less care.

In a city of artists, David Hunwick is sculpting his place. The Sculpture Studio and newly-opened Blue Whale Gallery add his particular touch to the thriving scene and for that, we have an enormous blue whale and a pair of tiny nickels to thank.

The Sculpture Studio is located at:
211 Harbour Rd, Victoria BC.

For more information and images, visit The Blue Whale Gallery on Facebook.
For upcoming shows and the availability of 6 and 12-week classes, visit The Sculpture Studio.