Nav­i­gat­ing the art world

Steam­punk artist James Cath­cart showed off his in­dus­trial cre­ations at a launch event at the Rusty Owl Café

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY

James Cath­cart has had a lot of jobs. Long ago, he worked in forests as a log­ger. He’s been a home ren­o­va­tor and a welder in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

“I worked with my hands, phys­i­cal labour,” he said. “That’s just where I grew up.”

He never thought that, one day, peo­ple would call him an artist.

On Satur­day evening, Cath­cart ex­hib­ited his steam­punk-in­spired cre­ations to a full house at the Rusty Owl Café. He views it as his launch into the art world, an alien en­vi­ron­ment that he’s just learn­ing how to nav­i­gate.

Rusty Owl is where Cath­cart re­ally got his start. The café’s owner, Philip Fourie called on him when he needed help craft­ing the decor for the café. The style is steam­punk. Fourie de­scribed it as “Vic­to­rian Fu­tur­ism,” the way peo­ple in the 1860’s would have en­vi­sioned the fu­ture.

Cath­cart de­signed sev­eral pieces of fur­ni­ture for the café, as well as the dec­o­ra­tive gauges that adorn the cof­fee counter. Fourie was so im­pressed by his work that he en­cour­aged him to take it to the broader pub­lic.

“The artistry in­volved to me is world class,” Fourie said. “I think he can go to New York, to the best of the mu­se­ums and the best of the art gal­leries and make a big suc­cess.

“But now he’s here in Prince Al­bert, and it’s just a ques­tion of get­ting his name out there.”

Cath­cart said the steam­punk style was a “nat­u­ral fit” for him. He’s al­ways en­joyed the work of Jules Verne, and that’s where his mind goes when he’s de­sign­ing a piece.

It also fits his back­ground in weld­ing. Cath­cart’s raw ma­te­ri­als are parts of old thresh­ing ma­chines and car mo­tors, an­cient saw­blades and gears. “What­ever catches my eye,” he said. He spends as much as 60 hours fash­ion­ing his pieces, pol­ish­ing them by hand to get an in­dus­trial fin­ish.

“The clean­ing, the grind­ing, all that stuff, it ain’t fun,” he said. “But once you’ve fin­ished a piece you look at it and you go, ‘Wow… I think some­one cre­ated me to do this.’”

He said he wants to start a full-time ca­reer build­ing and sell­ing his cre­ations. He knows that mak­ing a liv­ing as an artist isn’t easy. First, he’s got to learn to smooze.

“This is new for me, the arts world and the con­nec­tions,” he said. “The busi­ness and how I need to get to the right mar­kets, that’s go­ing to be a step at a time. A lot of that’s out of my league.”

ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY/DAILY HER­ALD

Cath­cart’s crafts ta­bles like this one from old propane tanks. He said he likes his work to be “func­tional.”

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