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Canora carver likes bears and birds

Canora-based artist at Sunflower Art & Craft Market.

YORKTON - Cliff Barabash has always like dabbling in art, but has recently found his true passion may lie in carving. 

“I’ve been painting seriously probably the last 10 years,” said the Canora-based artist as he was setting up for the Sunflower Art & Craft Market in Yorkton Friday. 

However, carving is a much newer endeavour “probably the last two years,” he said. 

Barabash said he picked up a carving knife just to try something different to ensure he had some variety in what he was doing to keep it fresh. 

Now carving is his current favourite artistic outlet, in particular bears. 

“I just like bears. I’ve always been interested in them. It’s never left me,” he said. 

Admittedly, not every carving has been show worthy. 

“I’ve made some pretty firewood,” joked Barabash. 

Barabash said he was actually rather proud of his first bear carving until he showed it to a friend. 

“He asked where its ears were,” said the artist, who knew it was back to the carving table a lesson learned. 

In general, Barabash said he has been fortunate to have people willing to give him honest feedback on what he creates. 

“I used friends and family as a sounding board,” he said. 

The earless bear notwithstanding, Barabash kept at it. 

“By my third bear I was starting to show people what I could do,” he said. 

And now Barabash is focused on carving. 

“Right now it’s carving. I’ve moved from wood to soap stone. It’s pretty easy to work with,” he said. 

While the carving stone is purchased, most of what the artist uses in terms of mounting pieces is found or recycled. For example, he pointed to a bird on a post top that was once part of a fence in his backyard. 

“They’re chunks of firewood, just scrap, cut-offs. I don’t like to waste anything,” said Barabash. 

Some carvers suggest they see what is hidden in the wood before they start, but when Barabash sits down he has decided what he will carve before picking up a piece, creating what he wants. 

That said he tries not to force the creative process either. 

“If I get frustrated with something I set it down for a while and then come back to it,” he said. 

As for his birds, Barabash said so far he has kept them quite simple, “just a representation of a bird. Nothing elaborate yet, since I’m still fairly new at this stuff.” 

But, as his skills grow, so too will the detail in his pieces, suggested Barabash. 

As for attending Sunflower, that too is a somewhat new endeavour, with Barabash just starting to take in events to sell his art, adding he hopes people like what he has created. 

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