Local author Pirjo Raits shows off a work by Phoebe Dunbar, one of the artists featured in her soon-to-be-released book Out of the Woods. (photo Tim Collins)

Sooke author’s book highlights Salish Sea artists

The art is varied but the medium is the same

When Sooke artist and woodworker Phoebe Dunbar, along with photographers Dale Roth and Michele Ramberg approached longtime Sooke resident, writer and past editor of the Sooke News Mirror Pirjo Raits to write a book about woodworkers along the Salish Sea, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s really a collaboration of all of us,” said Raits. “We all just believed in the project and wanted to showcase some of these remarkable artists.”’

The book, Out of the Woods, Woodworkers along the Salish Sea will be launched at the Sooke Harbour house on Nov. 4 at the Sooke Harbour House, 1-4 p.m. and Nov. 5 at Bolen Books at 7 p.m. and be released to bookstores and for online sales on Oct. 29.

The book showcases 26 artists, 11 of whom live in either Sooke, East Sooke, or Otter Point who are engaged in a broad range of artistic endeavours, all of which involve wood.

“They are very diverse, but they all have a reverence for their artistic medium,” explained Raits.

That reverence is obvious as one leafs through the fascinating account of the artists.

Take Mike Downey, as an example. Raits recounts how, once employed as a logger, he developed a deep appreciation of the forest and the vagaries of the wood that he now turns into satiny smooth bowls and covered vessels.

Then there’s the retired mathematics professor, Lowell Hinrichs who, at 81, is building what he calls the Chapel by the Salish Sea. He’s fashioned the non-denominational meditative space from dead cedars as a tribute to the Indigenous people of the region.

“The wonderful thing is that we have older artists in the book but also several younger carvers and artists. This is an artistic tradition that’s very strong and that is being passed down,” said Raits. “We featured 26, but there are probably 326 artists out there; all with the same passion for their art and of the region.”

The book is a captivating peek into the west coast ethos of the West Coast as represented by the artists.

From Jeff Letain of East Sooke who crafts wood into guitars to Greg Innes of Otter Point who crafts furniture and surfboards to Cos Loustalot of East Sooke who is in the process of building a fifty-eight-foot wooden sailboat; the range of artistry is mind-boggling.

“The one thing they have in common is wood. It’s the common thread that binds them together. They love what they do, and the book is a testimonial to their passion for the medium and the Salish Sea.”

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