Navigating the art world
Steampunk artist James Cathcart showed off his industrial creations at a launch event at the Rusty Owl Café
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.”
Cathcart’s crafts tables like this one from old propane tanks. He said he likes his work to be “functional.”