Nanoose Artist mimics the sea

Nanoose Bay artist uses wood and metal to make unique creations

Nanoose Bay artist J Holbrook stands with his copper rock cod fish.


When retired diving instructor J Holbrook takes his semi-weekly plunge into local waters, he documents everything he sees very carefully.

“I take stills and video when I dive and a lot of the creatures I see, the colours and textures, I try and mimic,”  said the Nanoose Bay artist.

Holbrook grew up in Salmon Arm and after working as a dive instructor in warm places like the Caribbean, he moved to the Island in 1987 to take a job in Campbell River.He became involved in the forestry sector on the Island, but after 15 years of working in sawmills he had a serious work related injury in his neck and had to reassess his life.

“I needed a different way to be,” he said. “So I started looking into things that interested me.”Holbrook took a course from a master woodworker in Errington named Peter Bailey about eight years ago, and then on to the North Island College in Port Alberni for their cabinet maker program. There he received the Top Student award.

Since then Holbrook has made and sold high end custom furniture, and a couple of years ago he began incorporating metals and pebbles into to his work. Holbrook said he likes to combine wood and metal because of their perfectly oppsite characteristics. Metal is a homogenous material that is consistent and flawless, he said, unlike wood.

“Wood I like because it comes with defects in it and you try to highlight what people might consider to be a defect, but it might be something really beautiful,” he said.Today Holbrook’s house is filled with stunning home decor items like shelves and boxes, highlighted with copper that has been hand-cut, hammered and soldered and then finished with flame to bring out the brilliant blue and green hues of the sea.  He also makes striking jewelry and his newest creation, copper rock cod, are creating quite the buzz.

These one-of-a-kind fish are hand-crafted out of heavy gauge copper and treated with flame to create some colourful, wonderfully west coast characters.Holbrook is a member of about 15 artists called the Nanoose Studio Tour group, who host studio tours twice a year to showcase their work.

His work can be found and purchased at Bowser’s Salish Sea Market, Nanaimo’s Art Gallery gift shop and on his website, Holbrook said he’s going to try his hand at welding, incorporate some more metals, and head down a sculptural pathway.