Tapping into roots

Roots have special meaning for Jacques Barbeau. Each one tells a story about life, he says.

Leading the way to his downstairs “root cellar” on Sunday, the Prince George artisan had a hard time hiding his passion for the twisted, knotty sculptures that have taken over tables, shelves and bookcases.

He discovered his roots, artistically speaking, a few months ago.

“One day, I was out walking my dogs in the bush and I sat down on a rock to have lunch. There was a fallen tree there, just a stump where the roots came out all over the place like spaghetti. Among all that tangled mess, I found there was such beauty – which is surprising because really they’re so ugly.” He laughed.

Barbeau is an avid collector of rocks, roots and clowns. For him there is a connection.

“I always look on the bright side of life. Having clowns around, reminds me that people should laugh and let go. Too many people don’t smile, you can’t get a laugh out of them. I just like to enjoy life.”

He carried that thought with him as he fashioned his first root sculptures in a home-based business called True Roots. These days, if a tree falls in the forest you can bet Barbeau will probably be first to hear it – and inspect it for any interesting root shapes which make it a potential work of art.

There are several stages to preparing and preserving the roots for their second life. First, Barbeau takes off the bark, clay and any stones or moss which has collected. Then he carefully cleans the roots, holding any delicate, small branches with tweezers so they don’t break while he removes debris. Finally, he varnishes the root and mounts it on a wooden base.

“I want the root itself to be the focus so I paint the base flat black.”

Barbeau expects each root sculpture will “speak” to people who may find their life represented in its twisting and turning branches.

“Some people read their future in the stars and they call it astrology. So I call what I do rootology. I read roots. These roots have been underground for years and they must have a story to tell.”

That is why he hopes people who buy his root sculptures will treasure them - for life.

“Every root is different so they can choose a root that best resembles their own experiences in life like a woman whose raised a family. We all go through tough times and as we get older, the ‘branches’ become brittle and thin out. People can relate to roots that grow and nurture the tree above it, the part people see. The smaller ones might be a child growing up,” Barbeau explained.

Anyone interested in finding out more about True Roots sculptures can phone Jacques Barbeau at J.B. Originals 250-563-9511.

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