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Northern Ontario sculptor casts his legacy in bronze

Tyler Fauvelle has installed public monuments across Ontario including a statue of Stompin' Tom Connors in Sudbury

Tyler Fauvelle's work is focused on ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

From a small studio located in Lively, a suburb of Sudbury, the Northern Ontario sculptor creates his work in clay by hand. He then casts the work (at his studio space in Toronto) in bronze or a metal-infused medium to create the finished product. 

Not only does he create smaller pieces, but he has also had the chance to create monumental installations that have been featured across Canada.

In June 2016, Fauvelle unveiled a life-size bronze statue commemorating Chief Francis Pegahmagabow, Canada's most highly decorated Indigenous soldier and early First Nations' rights activist, in Parry Sound, about 160 kilometres south of Sudbury. 

The three-figure bronze features Pegahmagabow in his Canadian Expeditionary Force uniform, a caribou representing his clan, and an eagle (sign of the Thunderbird, messenger). It's located on the Georgian Bay waterfront and was unveiled on National Aboriginal Day. 

His other work includes four bronze, stone-mounted reliefs representing the Wendat Circle of Nations in Penetanguishene, and a life-sized bronze commemorating Canadian music icon Stompin' Tom Connors in Sudbury. 

A statue to commemorate Fern Blodgett Sunde, the first woman to work as a wireless radio operator at sea, serving aboard an Allied merchant ship in the Battle of the Atlantic, will be installed in Cobourg in 2020.

“I like to tell the stories of regular people,” said Fauvelle. “It's very interesting to be able to tell these stories in a meaningful way.” 

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Born in New Liskeard, Fauvelle began sculpting at age eight.

Throughout his life, he always knew that sculpting was something that he wanted to do, but it wasn't until his wife Jana stumbled upon a box of his work that he really considered doing it for a living. 

Fauvelle has been a full-time, professional sculptor since 2008. His style can be described as “figurative, with impressionistic touches.”

His subjects range from cultural and historical icons to miners and prospectors to wildlife and landscapes. 

Fauvelle's success can be partly attributed to his attitude towards his work. 

“You have to treat it like a business,” he said, and that means wearing multiple hats.

“You have to understand that you're going to need to be able to do marketing and accounting. You need to write proposals, and you have to have some skills in meeting people.” 

The other important part about running a creative business is managing expectations. 

“Sometimes you have these grand ideas, but you have to work within the constraints of what is possible at the time,” he said. 

“Probably the most challenging thing for most businesses and artists is managing your expectations about your work and where it's going to go and what it's going to do.” 

Over the course of his career, Fauvelle has adapted his practice to find a balance between his expectations and what he wants to accomplish. 

Initially, he only cast in bronze, but more recently he developed what he calls a metal-infused medium. 

“(We created) the metal-infused medium because we wanted the work to be more accessible to more people and not lose the quality of the work.” 

The medium contains bronze powders to preserve the metal look, but the cost of the finished piece is a fraction of what the same piece would cost in bronze. 

“I want the people I am sculpting to be able to afford my work.” 

Fauvelle has also completed numerous corporate and private commissions in addition to his monumental work. In particular, mining companies are drawn to his bronze figures that depict hard rock miners and prospectors in the field. 

“My first project that was not monumental was actually for the opening of (Glencore's) Nickel Rim Mine (in Sudbury),” he said. 

He completed his common core training for the job and got the chance to go underground to get inspiration for the work. 

“Mining and prospecting is not only important because it's where we come from in the North, but it's also dangerous, hard work,” he said. 

“People in my family come from prospecting backgrounds. My wife's grandfather was a prospector in Sudbury. My first real job was working as a mining lab assistant – that's a long way of saying crushing rock. The goal has always been to show the work they do and show a little bit of pride.” 

The last monument that Fauvelle installed was of a prospector and his dog in honour of Kirkland Lake's 100th birthday last June. 

When he gets the chance, he also likes to sculpt things in his personal time. Inspired by the baby bears he used to see playing in the fields near the hunting and fishing lodge he used to run with his wife, he likes to depict an animal's more playful side. 

In one of his works, titled Still Point, Fauvelle sculpts an elder Haida man demonstrating traditional bow fishing skills, a task that required patience and concentration. 

The man stands on a rock face or cliff and uses a bow and arrow to spear the fish in the water. Afterwards, he jumps in to claim his catch. 

Fauvelle's smaller pieces are now being shipped all over Canada, and he just had his first customer overseas in England.  

“I love all my work. I love that people enjoy it everywhere,” he said. 

“But I still think the best part of what I do is to put a monument up when nobody has seen it yet, and to be able to spend a few minutes with it alone knowing that it's going to be there long after I am gone.”