There is a man who lives remotely on a ranch in the woods off Spring Lake Road who embodies the spirit of the west.
His name is Norm West and he is an artist working with wood, the material behind Spirit of the West Log Furniture.
West has been peeling logs for more than 35 years. In 1978, when West moved to the Cariboo, wood peeling was the first job he could secure. Working outside at his own pace and reaping the benefits of physical labour — he was drawn to it.
“The more I did it, the more I liked it,” West said.
Along the way, he discovered a passion for art and furniture.
“Some of the builders who were working on log homes would make furniture for clients and I always thought it looked like Flintstones furniture, you know, heavy and clunky,” he said. “I thought I could make better furniture and I began doing just that.”
The first piece of furniture West ever made was a chair.
“I kept the first few pieces of furniture I made because I didn’t think they were all that great,” he said. “The first chair that I made, I made it for my daughter. I still have it and she still uses it whenever she comes to visit.”
He’s since crafted an extensive collection of tables, chairs, lamps, accent art and frames of all sorts. The furniture is made entirely out of wood. No nails or screws are used.
According to West, each piece is “painstakingly” assembled with glued mortise and tenon joinery, then enhanced by a hardwood dowel through each joint.
“I have to always be working on something. Usually more than one thing,” he said. “Always working on a project helps with my creative process. If I didn’t, I’m not sure what would happen.”
Every piece of wood that West uses is different from the other. He hand-picks each piece from the forests and deserts of British Columbia.
On his ranch he has an 80-year-old log cabin that houses thousands of pieces of wood. There is black sage, diamond willow, juniper, alder, birch and spruce.
“Not everything I make will be functional. I like to make pieces that are just to be looked at, however, a lot of my work is functional,” he said.
West often uses nature as his source of inspiration. He said being exposed to nature is one of the reasons he lives so remotely.
“A lot of the time I don’t know exactly what I am doing,” he said. “I will be putting something together and I get to a point where I’m not sure what the next step will be. I will step outside of my workshop, take in my surroundings and when I go back in, it comes to me.”
Spirit of the West Furniture can be seen on display at the More Than Wood Art Gallery in 100 Mile House.
“I hope my furniture reminds people of the magic of nature and how important it is to protect it.”