Ask artist Alanna Baird about the fleet of heavy-looking power tools adorning her garage studio, and the former Maritimer - who angles fish-like sculptures from the remnants of her recycling bin - says they're simply part of the creative process.
"I use a plasma cutter to do the cutting," explains the silver-haired Alanna from her Manor Park home. Originally a clay potter, she began experimenting with secondhand metallic materials like tin and copper a few years ago and, within a few months, realized the value of heavy machinery in art.
"I also have a pneumatic riveting gun to save wear and tear on my hands," continues the soft-spoken artist, who moved to Ottawa in early 2006 and now teaches courses at the Gloucester Pottery School. "But mostly I just use hand tools."
Having spent her formative years trolling the Bay of Fundy's sublime shores for inspiration, marine imagery has always touched Alanna's creations. But after entering a competition held by the Museum of Civilization back in 1991, the artist says she was smacked with an epiphany of sorts. "I found myself thinking of the tin can lids sitting in my recycle box as perfect fish scales," she explains, adding she now employs pop can tabs for skin texture and bottle caps for eyes. "Living in rural New Brunswick, I didn't have access to too many materials other than my recycling box. So I started there. "And I built the first fish from that imagery," she continues. Tin fish are meant for indoor use and the copper specimens - made from recycled roofing materials - are outdoor swimmers.
Alanna produces metallic fish for Snapdragon Gallery in the Glebe, Divine Jewellery at the Château Laurier and various galleries in her hometown of St. Andrew's, N.B. Just don't expect a school of critters to show up at your local gallery anytime soon, Alanna cautions - she only forges a few dozen per year. "It's not a high production item, these fish," she says with a laugh.