Search for the golden shears

Jens van Draby has had his mother's gilded scissors throughout his long career as a costume and stage set designer and he wants them back

Jens van Draby has his own loom in his little house

Jens van Draby has his own loom in his little house

There’s something very important missing from Jens van Draby’s life these days, and looking for it has become something of an obsession.

The 84-year-old Danish-Canadian Parksville resident has turned his little McCarter Street home upside down looking for his set of scissors, but now he’s certain they’re just not there.

If they were ordinary scissors, he would be happy to just buy another pair, but, he said, these are no ordinary scissors.

“I inherited them from my mother,” he said. “My father bought them before the war one time when he went to Eskilstuna in Sweden.”

The set of two scissors, one 10 inches long and a smaller, six-inch pair, were made as part of a special celebration in that historic town.

“The town was commemorating their 900th year as an industrial town and they made some scissors, hunting knives and carving sets,” he said. “My father bought them and he gave the scissors to my mother and then I inherited them 55 years ago. They are in a red leather case and they’re gilded, so you can see them a mile away. There’s no other scissors like them — very classy stuff.”

A dedicated fabric artist, van Draby said he used the scissors when he worked as a costume and set designer for the Bastion Theatre Company in Victoria, creating pieces for productions of Damn Yankees, Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and The King And I.

“I also did the opening for the auditorium in Vancouver,” he said. “It was the opera Orpheus and Eurydice,” and it was really nice for me because the person who sang the part of Orpheus was also Swedish, so we could talk about everybody else in Swedish. We had lots of fun.”

He got his start in the costume and set design business many years ago, he said, in Victoria, learning the craft from another Scandinavian, Lilly Bohlin, who moved from Stockholm, who, having won all the first prizes available in the spinning and weaving world there, wanted to start a school and chose Victoria as her venue of choice.

“She came to Victoria because of the climate and moved into the second last house on your left hand side when you went down towards the Empress on Government Street,” he said. “It had used to be a whorehouse and she got it for next to nothing. She set up her weaving school there.”

Later, he said, Bohlin moved to Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria and opened the Sidestreet Studio, where she showed her works and continued to teach.

Retiring at last to Parksville, van Draby did some teaching himself, working with the Qualicum Beach Spinners and Weavers and the Qualicum Beach Needle Arts and the Thursday Spinners.

“I did a recreation of a panel from the Bayeux Tapestry,” he said. “I did a course and 17 people made one. It’s an exact copy, although I changed it because there was originally a lion or a leopard at the bottom and I made it into one with its tail in its mouth, because Harold should not have gone to fight William. If he hadn’t we would all be speaking Celtic today.”

Some time between October of last year and the end of November, his gilded shears disappeared, most likely, he said, from the Civic Centre.

“Maybe somebody found them,” he said. “I had them at the Civic Centre in October and then at the November meeting I realized I didn’t have my scissors, which I thought was peculiar, because I’d had them at the October meeting.”

The missing shears, he said, are important to him and finding them has become a mission.

“I’m sure my scissors miss me as much as I miss them,” he said. “I looked everywhere, absolutely everywhere. I have turned everything upside down, even going through the upholstery. I tore everything apart, but no, they’re gone.

Anyone who knows where these historic scissors might be is asked to call van Draby at 250-586-6633.

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