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Junk Bonds - Coast Posts by MacInnesJunk Bonds - Coast Posts by MacInnes

 

Junk Bonds

An interview with the metal man.
Rhona MacInnes

Alex Stenzel is a large man — big hands, big ideas. A trained Shipwright steel fitter, he harbours a passion for welding, and a calling to community service as a social worker. Stenzel and his wife came to Canada from Berlin, Germany, 28 years ago, and later settled in Roberts Creek.

It is here that he creates his remarkable metal ‘art garden’, an inventive, highly imaginative menagerie of insects, dinosaurs, circus scenes, dogs, African tribesmen, and other visions from Stenzel’s inspired mind. His art has been featured in numerous galleries, at Expo 86, on the television show Wierd Homes, and was once in a juried art show opened by Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

With a twinkle in his eye that belies his 57 years, Stenzel invites me to sit at a table in his cozy, art-filled office den. Self-consciously fiddling with a magnifying glass, he answers my questions with a soft accent and an air of gravity and sincerity, although he is quick to laugh, and does so often.

Q. How did you find your way to Roberts Creek?
A. When my wife and I came on vacation to Canada, we fell in love with the coast. We lived in North Vancouver for two years and then we came to Roberts Creek. When you have travelled a bit, and have seen other places in the world, you realize this is the best place.

Q. When did you start welding your art?
A. In Berlin, I employed as a social worker for orphaned children, and we were always trying to do things for them, pictures, collages . . . and one day I just picked up a welder and started welding up the junk from the kids at the orphanage. They were always leaving bicycles, it was a way of recycling, too.

Q. What do you like most about your art, is it the process, the result, or the reaction of the viewer?
A. It’s a little bit of everything, I really like welding as a hobby, and for me it’s the best way to say something and to express myself. I don’t really give a hoot what anybody thinks, but overall I get so many nice comments, and I have met so many nice people over the years.


Q. Your work is really whimiscal and unique -- where do you get your ideas?
A. My head is always full of ideas. People ask me that all the time, and I don’t know, I could go outside right now and start doing something and it would come.

Q. Where do you get your materials?
A. Steel is all around us. I still know people in the industry, and they will save me pieces, and I go to garage sales. My junk has accumulated so much right now, my whole backyard is full.

Q. So you are no longer working as a steel fitter?
A. I work locally as a care aid. It is hard to weld all day and then come home and do this as a hobby, so when I had the chance to get out of the industry and do something else, it was my opportunity to do something for the community, something social again.

Q. What are you working on right now?
A. The thing is, I can go out and start doing something and then get a completely different idea. Lately, I have been doing a few stainless steel structures. Stainless is much harder than regular steel, you have to grind a lot, but it doesn’t rust.

Q. Do you do commission work?
A. I used to, but not anymore, I just want this as a hobby. I do this for myself now.

Alex Stenzel
Alex Stenzel

10/01/2006

Watch This Space

Rhona MacInnes

When I first stepped off the ferry at Langdale many years back, I was instantly enchanted. The Sunshine Coast, with its pristine waters, majestic forests, spectacular vistas and abundant wildlife was, and is still, a magnificently rare chunk of Earth.

Back then, I was a young dreamer looking to change the world. The Coast, this bastion of nature and beauty—having declared itself a nuclear free zone—held the promise of a peaceful, harmonious future on its shores.

Years later, I have returned—with rather less lofty ideals in mind. Though the same aspects appeal, I am also amazed at the wealth of personality, art and character that exists in this region. So, instead of saving the world from itself, I’d prefer to save it for posterity. I want to seek out and share the stories that enrich our west coast idyll.

I’ll be posting a series of ‘Coast Posts’; accounts of the area, its inhabitants, flora and fauna, culture, recreation, and of course, quirks. Please join me here weekly.

Things to do, people to see, places to go. The Coast’s got ‘em in spades.

9/24/2006
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