When work started becoming scarce as oil and gas activity slowed in the Peace, Dean Bell took the opportunity to get in touch with his creative side.
Now, the welder-turned-craftsman is viewing the economic slump as an opportunity to embrace his latest passion full time.
Using reclaimed materials, like from the scrap bins at his work, Bell has been making artistic, one-of-a-kind coffee tables, and statuesque animals out of recycled piping and related materials.
“When it started not being that busy at work, I just started putting around in my shop and started building stuff,” Bell said.
The hobby isn’t entirely new for Bell. A decade or so ago, he used to build tables on the side to help pay for his racecar, an expensive pastime and a bone of contention in his marriage, he said.
He’s no longer into racing—“too much money involved,” he says—but his love for building has been rekindled.
“I’ve been procrastinating about doing it for years and this is the perfect opportunity. The nudge is there,” he said.
A common motif he incorporates into his tables is a killer whale, with its dorsal fin coming through the top of the glass surface, “so it looks like it’s breaking the surface of the water,” Bell said.
Each table Bell makes is unique.
“I just get recycled materials and I just place them how I figure they should look, and just kind of go from there,” he said.
While Bell has been focused on making tables for the time being, his repertoire may expand as he further develops his talent.
“It just depends on what I come up with. I’ll just wake up some days and I’ll just have an idea in my head and I’ll go out and start on it.”
Bell has been living in Fort St. John for 40 years, but he’s recently put his house up for sale so he can leave town, start fresh and pursue his table-making passion full time.
He plans to make the Okanagan his new home base.