Calgary

Cat and mouse armour: Calgary metal artist crafts beautiful battle gear

For the last three decades, Calgary metal work artist Jeff de Boer has been crafting painstakingly detailed suits of armour for mice and cats.

Jeff de Boer’s work being considered for Tower of London Armouries collection

Originally published Dec.14

If Tom and Jerry ever went to war, they could call on Jeff de Boer to suit them up in some fantastic battle gear.

This year, the Calgary artist celebrates three decades of crafting armour for cats and mice from steel, silver, brass, bronze, nickel, copper, leather, fibre and wood.

In base of those cat pieces there's actually an urn for their ashes.- Jeff de Boer

From medieval mice to Elven cat princesses adorned in gemstones — de Boer has sold hundreds of pieces of his animalia armour to collectors and pet owners around the world.     

"They're actually turning into a form of portrait. So when the cat passes away, even in the base of those cat pieces there's actually an urn for their ashes," he said.

But de Boer's quirky art form is rooted in the mighty mouse.

It all started when he was studying jewellery design at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD).

"I thought about building a suit that was very small but I didn't want to do a model. So I thought, 'What would make it authentic?' And realized, I could actually make a suit of armour for a mouse."

Many of de Boer's cat pieces are commissioned by owners as a way to memorialize their beloved pets. 'Even in the base... There's actually an urn for their ashes,' he says. (jeffdeboer.com)

Customized tools are used to forge miniature mouse helmets and one suit can take up to 40 hours to complete. Multiply that by 100 for the cat suit.

De Boer's workmanship is so good, the Tower of London is considering adding some of his pieces to its Armouries collection.

Do mice really wear it?

"People ask that question and I think therein lies part of the art of the whole thing. It triggers something in people's imagination — they want to see it happen. But it's not really about that," said de Boer.

So no, he's never dressed a mouse in armour. At least, not on purpose.

"We were photographing a set and we had a mouse for the day we had rented, if you can imagine, and the mouse climbed into one of the suits."

He has, however, dressed many cats in his battle gear.

"Oh no, they love it. When I come home with a piece of armour every day, the cats all come running up."

With files from the CBC's Falice Chin.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now