• Hunter Cresswell

When it comes to wildlife, sculptor nails it

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Chelsea rail gets new life as art installations

What started as a welding project and a simple “boîte a clous” along the old railway in Chelsea has snowballed over the past four years into a passion and public art project.

Chelsea metal artist and Grand Boisé Grade 5 teacher Yvan Xavier Regout has turned scrap metal that he’s been given or collected from the former railway into 15 works of art and four benches. He’s turned discarded rail spikes and other odd bits of metal, which were discarded along the rail corridor after the rails were ripped out, into a bear, owl, rooster, fox, beaver, porcupine, woodpecker, deer, geese and herons.

Chelsea metal artist and school teacher Yvan Xavier Regout welding his most recent piece of art, an owl made of scrap metal collected along the old railway in Chelsea. Hunter Cresswell photo

“I never thought of taking my art out of my atelier,” he said, sitting in his garage, workshop, and studio. “For me it’s like a present to be able to share my art,” he added.

It all started four years ago with a simple walk.

“Like everybody else, my wife and I love to walk the trail,” Regout said. “Everytime we went on a walk, I took a little pack-sack. You know how people hunt for mushrooms? We hunted for nails.”

Eventually he amassed enough railroad spikes to put his welding machine, which he bought on a whim 10 years ago, to use.

“I decided to do something. It’s too rich a history to put [the spikes] in the recycling,” Regout said.

Aside from honouring the area’s rail heritage, he also wanted to entertain his students, so his first project was to build two “fantasy herons,” as he described them. He put them where a small trail that runs from his home near Borden Point meets the community trail — but they currently stand guard at the beginning of his driveway.

The reaction from trail users has been very positive.

His friends, who knew it was him who put the towering birds along the trail, began offering to give him the scrap metal and rails they had collected from along the railway.

“We all picked some up, but we don’t know what to do with them,” Regout said of the nails.

He then put a box marked, “boîte a clous” or nail box, down near the birds and he started having to lug box after box of heavy railroad scrap up the hill to his home. After all his creations he still has multiple milk crates of spikes and metal stacked in his garage.

Voie Verte Chelsea contacted him about the art, and he donated a bear and deer made out of nails, and a bench made of railway plates to the organization.

For now, they all sit along the trail near his home. Regout said he loves watching people’s reactions as they suddenly catch sight of the artworks and observing others sitting on his bench, taking a moment to catch their breath and enjoy nature.

“Now that [the trail’s] resurfaced, more and more people stop by, and I still get given nails,” Regout said.

His next project is to make a turkey. He said he likes making Canadian animals because it’s also an opportunity for wildlife education, which is important to him as a teacher.

“It’s not just about making them; it’s knowing them,” Regout said about the animals he’s sculpted.

People can view, buy or commission work with metal they donate by contacting him either through his Facebook profile, Yvan Xavier Regout, or by emailing him at yregout@hotmail.com.

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