British Columbia

How a Kamloops carver is turning a spirit bear into a 300-kg rock star

Kamloops, B.C., carver Dave Court is currently more than 60 hours into working on a replica of a Kermode bear that lives at a local zoo.

Dave Court to spend over 100 hours carving alabaster block into likeness of B.C. Wildlife Park's spirit bear

'He's a very playful bear,' said rock carver Dave Court about Clover, his subject for his latest piece. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Mine technician Dave Court not only likes to blow up rocks, he carves them into art, too — but only after they tell him what they want to be.

The Kamloops, B.C., carver is currently more than 60 hours into working on a replica of a Kermode bear that lives at a local zoo. 

The 300-kilogram piece is carved out of alabaster rock and will find its home in the B.C. Wildlife Park just east of Kamloops, where Clover, a rare white-coated black bear or "spirit bear," currently resides.

"It's cool. When I started, it was a big brown rock, and now it's a big white rock with pinks in it and browns in it and marbling ... you never know what the rock is going to hold as a surprise for you," Court told Daybreak Kamlooops' Jenifer Norwell.

Court hopes his carving of the spirit bear will be finished by the end of September. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

His carving shows the bear on its back, grabbing his toes.

"He's a very playful bear," explained Court.

He was asked to create a big carving for the park by its executive director Glen Grant, who plays on the same hockey team as Court and had seen some of his work.

The park provided the $1,000 stone Court is voluntarily carving. He expects he has another 50 hours to go until the bear is complete. 

"I usually do small stuff. This is my first big one I've ever done," said Court. 

Clover the spirit bear lives at the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops, B.C. (BC Wildlife Park)

Listening to the rock

The mine technician, who works at the Highland Valley Copper Mine near Logan Lake, B.C., was taught how to carve 14 years ago by his former father-in-law, renowned Inuit sculptor and carver Abraham Anghik Ruben

"He knew I painted and he knew I did other art forms and asked me if I wanted to try carving," said Court. 

"So, I went to this pile of stones, grabbed a stone, asked him what I should carve. He told me, 'You better carve what the rock tells you,' and I carved my first eagle head, and I've been carving ever since."

Court has learned that the rock does indeed always tell him what to make.

He said when he was choosing a rock to carve the spirit bear he went to a warehouse and picked one that said "I want to be a bear."

"We hit this one with a hammer, it had a nice sound, it was the right shape. It wanted to be a bear," he said.

"The rock tells you what it's supposed to be and you better do what you're told, or as this one has, I tried doing a shortcut and a big chunk fell off and let me know who was boss," he added. 

Court aims to have the spirit bear carving finished by the end of September.

With files from Jenifer Norwell and Daybreak Kamloops