Wood is always moving, organic … even when it is old.
Brian Street comes from a rich and varied background which has surely influenced his view of the world. He was born in China and spent his early school years in Japan. This, he believes, opened the door to the arts later in his life.
From Japan, Brian was raised in the foothills of Alberta, rabbit hunting and playing hockey on ponds. He moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson University, taking Graphic Arts and Photography … both, he realized, would only be productive if he stayed in the big cities … and I am not a city boy. So, he moved west to Vancouver Island and knew then as he does now, that he had moved to the centre of the Universe. I love the outdoors, fishing, boating, kayaking and exploring. Different and varied occupations have broadened my life and outlook on life.
After years of commercial fishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island, Brian opted to sell his fishing licence and boat due to the changing nature of the fishing industry. At that time, the Ministry of Fisheries was offering retraining of fishers.
By chance, I was helping a friend and saw an old turned bowl he had made in high school. The process intrigued me so much, I turned in my resume and applied to learn the trade of turning wood. Many hours of watching videos and trying to follow the directions of Richard Raffan (a well known wood turner), practice, practice practice and a NEW lathe brought me to where I am now.
Brian’s work is very British Columbia. It is friendly, colourful and unique in its beauty. Burls can be difficult to work with … twisted grain and usually quite old and dry, but give way to unbelievable colour and markings. Getting a beautiful finish is definitely a labour of love and necessary to release the true richness of the burl. I occasionally texture or colour pieces to augment the natural beauty.
Besides nature as a whole, Brian finds inspiration from all the shapes, textures and forms all around him. He also looks at the work of other turners, potters and glass workers. All of the forms give him a broad base and stimulate his own creative ideas.
Many people ask him where he gets his beautiful burls. For years I have searched ads in papers and online … finding people who have had burls sitting in their garage for over thirty years, but never quite got around to using them. I’ve gone to Port McNeill, and YouBou, Victoria and Port Alberni … all around the island picking through piles of spider webs and dusty piles of burls.
Besides the hidden beauty in each of the burls, I’m amazed that wood is always moving, organic … even when it is old. I may have an idea as to what I’d like to create from a piece but the wood makes it very clear … that with bark inclusions and defects it sometimes dictates the end result.
The fact that I get to do what I love and people are willing to purchase the work is always pleasing and still quite surprising after all these years.