Shawnigan Lake School founder preserved in statue form

Director of the Shawnigan Centennial, Phil Jarvis, stands with artist Mardie Rees in front of the commissioned statue of C.W. Lonsdale. - submitted
Director of the Shawnigan Centennial, Phil Jarvis, stands with artist Mardie Rees in front of the commissioned statue of C.W. Lonsdale.
— image credit: submitted

A larger-than-life statue of Shawnigan Lake School's founder and first Headmaster C.W. Lonsdale that's been nearly three years in the making is now complete.

Internationally-renowned sculptor Mardie Rees hosted a public unveiling of her creation at the Real Carriage Door Company Studio in Gig Harbor, Washington last week.

Current Shawnigan Lake School headmaster David Robertson, director of external relations and advancement Rudy Massimo and director of the upcoming Shawnigan Centennial Phil Jarvis were in attendance.

"As I look at this magnificent statue, all eight feet of it, I feel more than ever that our founder was something of a giant in the world of education and I remain very proud to be upholding his legacy,'' remarked Robertson.

Shawnigan Lake School celebrates its Centennial in 2016. The statue was commissioned as part of the celebrations and funded by a group of alumni led by Stuart Milbrad (1948), Dr. John Burr (1949) and Francois Elmaleh (1953), who were all graduates during Lonsdale's years at Shawnigan between 1916 and 1952.

A statue of the founder seemed a natural tribute to the man whose vision played a huge role in Shawnigan's initial success that has continued to build over the years.

Once Robertson approved the project, Rees went to work on the piece. She used live models in period clothing to create the look she was seeking and made a foam version that she covered in clay.

Rees said Jay Connolly's book Rough Diamond: An Oral History of Shawnigan Lake School served as an inspiration.

"I discovered that Lonsdale was a visionary character and I started getting really excited about the piece. He was really kind of a father figure to the students in his school. That's the way the alums felt about him. He was their mentor when they were teenagers. He was so important in their lives.''

Rees used a vest appropriate to the time period and put it on the mannequin to adjust the fabric. She spent many days in her studio with her sidekick, a friend's German Shepherd, to sculpt the canine portion of the piece.

Rees' husband was the model for Lonsdale's hands.

"As soon as I have a live model in my studio, everything sort of comes together,'' noted Rees. "It goes so much faster. You can see how the suit reacts to the posture of the body, how the neck is pressed against the collar, how to get the shoes to feel worn. I need the live model to make the sculpture 'breathe.'''

The sculpture will now go to the Two Ravens Foundry in Tacoma, Washington to be cast in bronze early this summer. Installation at Shawnigan Lake School will take place during Founder's Day in October.

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