Creature creations fashioned from driftwood, kelp and pine cones

Driftwood, kelp and scales from pine cones bring a dragon to life in front of a house on Fairfield Road, one of a growing collection of characters in an impromptu outdoor gallery made possible by COVID-19.

Residents walking along Fairfield Road of late have been entertained by a collection of driftwood figurines, including a jaguar lounging in a tree, a man walking his dog, a lion, birds and a number of faces.

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Up until a year ago, Tanya Bub worked full time as a computer programmer. A chance find — a piece of driftwood that reminded her of a white orca breaching — got her thinking of other pieces that could come to life.

The opportunity came one day last summer when she spent a day on the nearby beach with her young son collecting driftwood.

Soon after, she produced her first piece: a pirate with a kelp beard. Since then, she has made hundreds of pieces, some on display outside her house on Fairfield Road and others at the Gage Gallery Arts Collective in Oak Bay.

“It is an opportunistic art,” said Bub, who studied ceramics at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. “I try to capture the spirit in my pieces. I take a piece, move it this way and that until suddenly, life springs into the wood.”

She compares the creation of a piece with doing a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find the perfect placement of a piece of wood.

“I sometimes think of it as bringing order out of chaos,” said Bub. Her creations can be whimsical, magical or life-like. Some of her smaller pieces — such as a daisy sculpture — sell for $30, while the larger pieces, usually built on commission, can command up to $1,000.

It may take her an hour to put together a flower and up to two weeks — working 12 hours a day, to create a true-to-scale cougar for a client.

Her outdoor gallery was a result of the temporary closure of the art gallery displaying her work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The collection has a COVID-19 vibe to it,” said Traci Vanderbilt, who often walks by the property.

Almost everybody who walks by the outdoor display whips out their cameras for a picture or stop to chat with Bub.

“I enjoy working with driftwood because the material is totally random — there are no pre-conceived ideas to hold you back,” Bub said. “It’s both silly and fun.”

She draws parallels between the response to the pandemic and the response to her work.

“The pieces are held together with glue. But the glue itself is not strong enough to hold the piece together,” she said.

“Each piece of wood serves to support each other for the whole to stay together — much like people working together to successfully fight COVID-19.”

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