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Music a powerful inspiration for Edmonton's heavy-metal sculptor

The climb to the top has been slow and steady for Andrew McCaffrey, an Edmonton sculptor whose biggest inspiration is "dark and industrial music."

'I've had some cool stories that have taken me to some cool places," Andrew McCaffery says

From his passion for music, Andrew McCaffrey has shaped figurines of some of the metal world's most famous icons. Produced by the CBC's David Bates. 2:47

In his busy studio, Andrew McCaffrey holds a small figure of a donkey throwing up the horns — the hand gesture used by heavy-metal fans to show their love of the music for those not in the know.

"This is Death Metal Donkey," McCaffrey says, turning the sculpture in his hands.

"He's obviously a very angry heavy metal fan, and is fed up with all the posers at his bars." 

Music has been the biggest inspiration for what I do.- Andrew  McCaffrey

Death Metal Donkey is one of the many sculptures and characters that have come out of the Edmonton sculptor's mind — a mind itself sculpted by "dark and industrial music."

"Music has been the biggest inspiration for what I do," said McCaffrey. "I would make figurines of my favourite musicians and meet them in person and give it to them backstage at concerts or outside of their tour buses, or when they're at events.

"I've had some cool stories that have taken me to some cool places."

'Really rewarding'

Growing up "in the sticks" just outside of Ardrossan, McCaffrey moved to Edmonton when he was in his early 20s.

He was inspired to start sculpting by the 1994 Jim Carrey movie The Mask.

Fast forward two decades or so, and now — using clay and two dental picks to create his art — McCaffrey is one of the premier sculptors in Edmonton.

He recently supplied all the figures for an Edmonton stop-motion TV show called Squeaks and Cheeks.

McCaffrey shows up in the video at 3:40.

At the moment he is working with Project Canadian Crayon to design a mould to be used in making a crayon for children with learning disabilities. 

"Ethically, the project is really beautiful. I've always been really affectionate to kids and I really like reaching out to disabled children that may not have been able to have the same chance that other kids have," he said.

"The idea to apply my creativity to such a project is really rewarding."

Eating bonbons with Danzig

McCaffrey is known best for his sculptures of his favourite musicians, and his ability to get backstage to hand them over to the artists himself. He's both sculpted and met Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Lemmy from Motörhead (who died in 2015) and Glenn Danzig.

In 2008, when he met with Danzig, McCaffrey had just broken up with his girlfriend and lost his job. His art got him through that bad patch and he found himself flying to the United States and meeting the Misfits legend. 

After giving a sculpture to Danzig's drummer, Johnny Kelly, McCaffrey was brought even further backstage by a bodyguard. 

"I got escorted onto this tour bus by a bodyguard and to meet with Glenn [Danzig]. Super nice guy. I was sitting eating chocolate bonbons with him on his tour bus." 

Andrew McCaffrey shows up his sculpture of Skinny Puppy singer Nivek Ogre. He would meet Ogre because of it. (CBC )

While times have been good for the sculptor he readily admits that it hasn't been the smoothest road and like all artists, he struggles at times. 

"Sometimes you have to tear the sculpture apart,  because if something isn't working properly you're never going to be able to look at that sculpture again."

Sooner or later you just end up somewhere that you wanted to end up your entire life.- Andrew  McCaffrey

"If that index finger is off, a tiny [bit] longer than it should be, people won't be able to see, but you'll be able to see."

But with every creation of a donkey fed up with the posers at his metal bar, or a likeness of one of his favourite artists, McCaffrey continues to crawl towards success. And with that success comes a wealth of stories. 

"All these stories just sort of start with this whimsical idea of I want to meet these people and give them my artwork. Here I am in this horribly little studio making these little creatures that are giving me all these fun little jobs, like making crayons for children or little piglets," said McCaffrey.

"Sooner or later you just end up somewhere that you wanted to end up your entire life."

About the Author

Mack Lamoureux

Mack Lamoureux is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. He's a lover of strange and odd stories. He counts writing about himself in the third person among his least favourite things to do. mack.lamoureux@cbc.ca, @macklamoureux

With files from David Bates