A Symposium of Icons :: One Symbolic Paddle’s History

A Symposium of Icons :: One Symbolic Paddle’s History

::A Symbolic Paddle::Become Part of The Story::
:: A Symposium of Canadian Icons :: 
:Wipper, Mason, and Kettlewell:

Bill Mason stamp

Over a decade ago, Kirk Wipper (as founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum, and Camp Kandalore fame), became excited at the news that Canada Post was going to be honouring a few select Canadians for their achievements in the outdoors in the form of a postage stamp.

Around that same time, Kirk had come to meet me (Fiona) as an artist who painted on canoe paddles at the first Canoe Symposium held in Merrickville, ON. And just like the true humanitarian he was, Kirk offered encouragement to this young artist by commissioning me to painting on a paddle to celebrate the launch of the Bill Mason stamp and the first annual Canoe Symposium (an event which is no longer active).

I was very excited when I was left with a couple of paintings/prints to rework into one celebration of canoeing – and the idea that the celebratory Bill Mason stamp was the main theme of it all. One of the paintings I was to re-style for this paddle art project was the renowned oil painting entitled “Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior” which was painted in 1869 by Frances Anne Hopkins.

After some time, I came up with a Canadian theme that depicted canoeing in it’s various forms across the ages to celebrate all facets of canoeing. From Native Peoples to the Voyageurs, and from a traditional campsite to a modern day white water river being canoed in a plastic boat – each scene was enveloped inside of it’s own maple leaf as part of one tree – or story. The other side of the paddle blade had a specific reworked painting/print of Bill Mason from Kirk’s private collection. Also a well known image. As well, this side of the paddle incorporated the actual Bill Mason stamp. It was an unusual project for me as I took on a different painting style for this special piece for Kirk. Usually used to a more realistic style, it was a nice break for me to paint with a bit more whimsy.

Mike, Fiona, and Kirk at a later Canoe Symposium

Finished in 1999, this paddle remained part of Kirk’s private collection until his passing in 2011, where upon Kirk’s wife, Ann Wipper,  gifted the paddle back to me – as the artist and friend. Feeling that the paddle was not mine to keep, I decided to hold on to it for sentimental reasons for a short time. However, I only ever felt I was a custodian of this unique paddle, and have thus – at Ann Wipper’s reqeust – decided to donate it to the Canadian Canoe Museum Beaver Club Gala’s silent auction this October.

Interestingly enough, while the paddle was in my possession, it was photographed for a feature that was done about our family business for a local area magazine. This paddle now appears in the pages of the August 2012 edition of Muskoka Magazine (see above picture).

This is the paddle to be auctioned
this coming October, 2012.

Why is this folk art paddle iconic? Because it was commissioned by a Canadian icon to celebrate another Canadian icon. Kirk Wipper was not only the Canadian Canoe Museum founder and beloved educator at University of Toronto and Camp Kandalore, but he was also recipient one of the most prestigious awards to be bestowed upon a Canadian as he was named to The Order Of Canada.

So, to many of us, Kirk is an icon. And there would be none to argue that Bill Mason is a Canadian icon as well. Yet, to go even further, I will argue that the paddle is also a bit iconic as it was built by a legendary paddle maker. This folk art style painting is on an original Ray Kettlewell paddle – bought by Kirk for this special project over 15 years ago. From what I remember, it was a paddle Kirk had used before handing it over to me to paint on.

Decorated on both sides of the paddle blade, as well as the shaft, this paddle will now be auctioned off at the Beaver Club Gala this coming October with 100% of the funds raised being donated to The Canadian Canoe Museum – in honour of Kirk Wipper, Bill Mason, and even Ray Kettlewell.

If you are interested in owning this paddle, please contact the Canadian Canoe Museum on how to bid or get your tickets for the Beaver Club Gala*. I do truly hope that this paddle will be passed into the hands of someone who has as much respect for these men as I have. It is truly a special paddle deserving of a special home. And who ever ends up with the winning bid will take home a piece of (current) history thereby becoming part of this unique paddle’s story as well. I wonder who it will be…..

This the page from Muskoka Magazine’s August 2012 issue
where the paddle was featured along with our family business.

*The Beaver Club Gala is an evening in support of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Join special guest host Shelagh Rogers, award-winning broadcaster and journalist, on Saturday, October 13th, 2012 for the Beaver Club Gala at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club. Cocktails at 6 p.m., Dinner at 7 p.m. Recreating the original fur traders’ supper club in Montreal, the Beaver Club Gala is an authentic dining experience with fine food, period music and daring tales of the North Country. It is great fun for a worthy cause. Proceeds benefit the educational and public programs of the Canadian Canoe Museum. Dress code for the evening is black tie. Buckskins, formal wear c.1800 or fur trade and highland garb are encouraged but optional. Voyageur sashes will be available for purchase at the door.  $200per person, $1600 per table of 8.

  • David H. Johnston
    Posted at 20:29h, 20 September

    Nice post. I have very fond memories of that event as well. I still have my Bill Mason stamps that I got in a box under the bed and I pulled them out a couple of months ago to look at them again.

    David Johnston

  • Badger Canoe Paddles
    Posted at 21:30h, 20 September

    Well bless your heart, David! *wink* I have a sheet of the stamps as well (the four of them, Mason, Foster, Munday and Comeau). I framed it and put it in a box somewhere too. Too funny.

    Anyway… Good times make for great memories… I am happy to have stirred some for us both. :o) Cheers!