Horseshoe-salmon from Kaleden born from pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Horseshoe-salmon from Kaleden born from pandemic

Jean Ouellon of Kaleden with his COVID-19 project, "Pearl the Pandemic Salmon."
June 11, 2020 - 9:01 AM

Pearl the Pandemic Salmon is a mad creation perfect for the time in which she was born.

Her creator Jean Ouellon, who hails from the South Okanagan community of Kaleden, says the metal salmon sculpture, made entirely of horseshoes,  got started three months before COVID-19 restrictions put him under lockdown.

“I counted the number of horseshoes I used to make it five times, and got five different answers. I can tell you it’s in the hundreds, not thousands, but I’m saving the answer for a 50-50 guess draw down the road,” Ouellon says.

The 10 foot long sculpture is made entirely of used horseshoes.
The 10 foot long sculpture is made entirely of used horseshoes.

He’s equally noncommittal about the weight but says after trailering it through Penticton last week he was able to place it in his yard by himself.

“Somebody asked me how much I wanted for it. I said if you’re going to offer me a low five-figure number, don’t bother,” he says.

Ouellon says he’s spent an average of four to 12 hour days on the project.

He has a small office attached to his shop where he designed the fish, fashioning a type of mold out of 2x4s which he used as a framework.

The salmon even has subtle details built-in, like a curved back and raised tail that helps convey motion.

Ouellon incorporated details including a curved back and raised tail.
Ouellon incorporated details including a curved back and raised tail.

But why a salmon as opposed to something else?

“I don’t know,” he says.

The answer may lie in the fact it’s not Ouellon’s first horseshoe sculpture of an animal. He’s made sculptures of birds and pigs, and a bear sculpture along with three birds Ouellon created are on display at the new Penticton Regional Hospital tower.

“That bear was a personal challenge. When I finished it, I showed a photo to a businessman in Penticton, and eventually, it ended up at the hospital,” he says.

"There are several in Winnipeg, too. I gave an awful lot away,” he says.

He's also made pig sculptures and has orders for three more of those.

Other horseshoe projects include birds and pigs.
Other horseshoe projects include birds and pigs.

Ouellon says the inspiration to spend the time and energy creating the horseshoe art pieces comes from a deep-seated desire not to waste.

“I like to repurpose. I’m not cheap, but I don’t like to throw anything away if it can be used,” he says.

He’s chosen horseshoes as his metal medium because “there is no incentive to recycle horseshoes. They aren’t worth anything for scrap,” he says.

He gathers the used equine footwear from local farmers, and horse owners. His shop contains several five-gallon pails waiting for his next inspiration.

“I began by making tool racks. I’ve made toilet paper holders, horseshoe brackets for this and that, all kinds of things. That’s how it started,” he says.

The retired former millwright — or fitter, welder, fabricator or welder/machinist/ mechanic— formerly owned a machine shop in Penticton. His personal business card today reads “Recreational & Small Project R&D.”

Ouellon says he’s never made any real money from the works he has sold.

“There’s a lot of time involved. It takes 10 to 15 minutes just to clean the horseshoes, then they have to be sorted. With the pieces I sold, I probably made two or three dollars an hour,” he says.

Why do it then?

“I guess I just have to have metal in my hand,” Ouellon says.

Buckets of used horseshoes await Ouellon's next project.
Buckets of used horseshoes await Ouellon's next project.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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