The collection of buildings and businesses that comprise the tiny community of Coombs these days is diverse, to say the least. Most folks head for the famous Coombs Market, better known these days as Goats on the Roof. But while the market and its assorted neighbouring businesses hold certain charms for many we prefer the quiet oasis just across the bridge that serves as home to Coastal Carvings Fine Art Gallery.
Coastal Carvings is operated by Jeremy Humpherville, a big, friendly bear of a guy, and his wife Darlene. Jeremy was born and raised in Haida Gwaii (or the Queen Charlotte Islands, if you prefer), where he learned the fine points of creating native art from his uncle. It is a talent and a passion that stretches back for generations in the Humpherville family, and it has been honed to a peak of exquisite beauty by Jeremy and his brother Jerett.
Jeremy’s work first came to my attention late in 2012 when I was working on a freelance story about the spectacular award-winning Music By The Sea home being constructed on the waterfront in Qualicum Beach. His creative eye was evident in every nook and cranny, creating a series of breathtaking works of art throughout the home. That project, he says, was ‘a gift’ – it’s like a complete portfolio all in one house.’
But, I digress. The gallery started off originally as a showcase for Jeremy’s work, but soon expanded to include a total of 41 indigenous artists. Things have been pared down a little since the early days and the century-old residence that now serves as home to the gallery currently houses the work of 28 First Nations artisans.
If you are thinking that all you are going to see at Coastal Carvings is the usual traditional Native art, think again. There are both traditional and contemporary First Nations creations on display – all of them beautiful for very different reasons.
The gallery’s bright rooms display a unique and diverse collection ranging from original oil paintings to sculpture, to Jeremy and Jerret’s beautifully-crafted furniture pieces and turnings. When I visited the gallery recently there was an exquisite pair of moccasins, Native jewellery, a traditional native head dress…and a saxophone bearing the artwork designed by Jeremy for Juno-award-winning Phil Dwyer’s Sea Wind musical instruments line. There were huge wall sculptures, large works and small works, all with varied pricing depending on the artist and the work.
While Jeremy is the first to admit that Coastal Carvings’ offerings are not inexpensive, he also justifiably points out that a piece purchased there will never be seen or duplicated anywhere else. When something takes a year to create and is one-of-a-kind there is a certain value to those aspects alone, not to mention the enhanced beauty that such a piece creates in a purchaser’s life.
Jeremy is keen to make the gallery all-inclusive of the many talented people who contribute to the finished pieces seen in Coastal Carvings..
“At present we represent only aboriginal artists, but a lot of them collaborate with other craftsmen, and we want to acknowledge everyone who is involved in the final results,” he says. “So, we are thinking of diversifying a little in order to accomplish that.”
Jeremy and Jerett work closely together on design and construction of various furniture pieces, which are assembled in their workshop in Qualicum Beach. And, says Jeremy, Jerett also offers input on the designs that go into his carvings and other projects when he is working on custom pieces and home designs.
“By doing that, we refine each others’ work” says Jeremy.
Clearly, Coastal Carvings is a labour of love.
‘We want to make the gallery thought-provoking,” says Jeremy. “We put our heart and soul into it. The gallery is really like raising another child, and you just hope it comes out right in the end.”
Judging from the exquisite beauty to be found at Coastal Carvings, it’s pretty clear that the Humpervilles are doing a fine job of raising their ‘other child’.
Coastal Carvings will host an open house on Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Guest artists will be on site.
Further information about Coastal Carvings can be found at the website:
Coastal Carvings is located at #6 (the blue house), 2340 Alberni Highway
(Highway 4A) Coombs, just west of the Coombs market, across the bridge.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.305593 Long. -124.425391
N 49 18.336 W 124 25.523