Artist Tyler Hay turns everyday junk into one-of-a-kind treasures

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Ty in his workshop.

Work of Heart

by Jacquelyn Toupin

My favourite kinds of nights are the ones when everything has been cleaned up, the kids are snug in their beds, and my partner Tyler Hay has stolen away to his workshop. I might curl up on the couch with a movie and some sewing or sneak out to see what my other half is doing.  As I approach the shop, I’ll hear the faint sound of music playing and notice the warm glow of the lights streaming through cracks in the old wooden structure, built sometime long ago when my great-grandparents farmed this land.

Inside this shabby, not-so-chic building, I’ll find my husband, handsome of course, surrounded by the beauty of his eclectic workspace and bent over his latest work of heart. Tonight he’s working on a series of faery doors, complete with tiny button doorknobs and coloured-glass gem windows; one even has a flowerpot on the threshold. That’s right, my husband’s collection of buttons and beads far exceeds my own.

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As a mixed media artist, Ty has an eye for detail and a knack for seeing beauty in just about everything around him. For me, a walk in the woods is just that, a chance to feel the air on my cheeks and to find peace for my soul. For Tyler, such an outing is something else entirely. He notices what others don’t. One look around and he sees far beyond the fallen cedar. Instead, he imagines the base of a table in its system of exposed roots. In an oddly shaped branch, he’ll see the face of an old man. There it is, as clear as day, if only I had been looking!

After hours of working away by the fire this winter, that branch will become a staff. It might be embellished with a glass ball he found at a secondhand store three years ago, something someone else saw as junk, and I grumbled about as he stashed it in our cart.

Did I mention the time he disassembled an entire barn for the materials? I can’t complain since I now have a beautiful apothecary cabinet made from some of that barn board.  This is part of what makes his work one-of-a-kind: the majority of his materials were once someone’s garbage.

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Ty has been creating for as long as he can remember. Although his beginning was humble, spent building bookends as a young boy with a mini toolset, his work today is complex, involving all types of textiles and tools. He’s a passionate welder, woodworker and glass artist, and in the near future he hopes to get going with his latest undertaking: using my father’s                                                                                                                                              1940s industrial sewing machine to take on some leather work. (He plans to spread it out in our newly decorated study, but that’s another story).

His list of inherited tools also includes a forge that once belonged to his great-uncle. More often than not, I respond to his excitement about these new treasures with slight panic as yet another crate of bits and bobs or inherited apparatus arrives. “What the heck do you need that for?!” I’ll exclaim before he calmly tells me that it will come in handy some day.

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To see more of Ty’s work, send a message via the family’s blog at www.whilethesunsshine.com.

It’s about energy, he explains. He always comes back to Einstein’s quote about the conservation of energy and how it “cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” And so it is with these tools and pieces he’s collected, each holding its own stories, that he becomes the medium for which energy from the past travels through to a new work of art.

From the large-scale flying geese statue he built on Stoney Lake out of an oil tank to the sign he crafted for an art gallery, and the unique pieces he builds to sell at festivals and on our Etsy site, Ty’s work is always evolving and ever changing.

What’s next for this busy father? “The dream is to have a small studio at home where we can welcome people to see and purchase our work and to take part in workshops. Also to be able to travel throughout the summer from coast to coast selling our handcrafted work. Ultimately, what I hope is to be able to have my art become part of my lifestyle.”

You can read more about Ty, Jacquelyn and the adventures of their growing family on her blog Makin Hays at www.whilethesunsshine.com. To view more of Ty’s work, purchase it or make a custom order, send a message via the blog. You can also follow the Facebook page, Element Studios, for updates on creative workshops and dance classes.

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