Chilliwack driftwood artist part of Christmas display in Burnaby

Max Newhouse has been making special sculptures for the Burnaby Village Museum’s Illuminations at Heritage Christmas display

Local artist Max Newhouse made several instruments out of driftwood including this large harp.

Cultus Lake artist Maxwell Newhouse had a blast this year making giant musical instruments for a special outdoor Christmas display.

“I saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime,” he tells The Progress.

The artist and children’s author has been busy constructing special sculptures for the Burnaby Village Museum’s Illuminations at Heritage Christmas display, which runs until Dec. 23.

“I tried to make it appear as if these instruments were not in fact built by human hands,” Newhouse says.

The instruments were put together using repurposed natural materials, old instruments and driftwood that he found washed up on the beach.

The results are astonishing.

The larger-than-life piano, harp and drum Newhouse completed are so chunky, rustic and beautiful that they invite the possibility that it was actually the eagles who built the instruments and will use them.

The piano was fashioned from two discarded pianos, that were bolted together, back to back.

“The pianos were going into the garbage. It broke my heart.”

There’s a giant steel drum, made for Newhouse by Century Plumbing, that looks like an eagle’s next with 12 drumsticks for visitors to try out.

And the pieces are completely interactive.

Visitors to the Village, can play them and make their own sounds of Christmas.

The Village is like stepping back in time, to visit a tram-stop community from the 1920s, with heritage and replica buildings.

When Newhouse got the call and was asked if he could construct a giant harp for the Christmas display, he thought at first it was impossible.

“Then I thought, wait a minute, I have a giant piece of yellow cedar.”

He’d been stumbling over the piece in his barn for three years. That’s how it started.

Driftwood art is something he’s been producing since he was a teenager, before he turned to serious painting. He began making intricate little driftwood villages. He sold them for $25 a piece at the Gallery of B.C. artists.

“They sold so fast, I couldn’t keep up with the demand,” he remembers.

In 1986 he was drawn again to the textured and worn beauty of driftwood, when he made his wife, Lillian a driftwood chair.

The rest is history. He’s been at it ever since. He signs and numbers every driftwood piece of furniture and recently hit number 447, mostly a collection of chairs, tables and benches.

But these driftwood instruments add a whole different dimension to this body of work.

“I’m very proud of my musical furniture but I’m also very proud of the artists and the community, for pulling together these creatures.”

The artistic atmosphere was great at the Village.

“The energy is like New York,” he says. “The result is a very dramatic Christmas celebration. It’s like something out of the land of the Hobbits.”

Find more at

Visitors to the Village will find welcoming new snowfall display just inside the Main Gate, with stars and spheres on the Beech tree near Elworth House, an enchanted path between Elworth and the Bandstand as well as the other festive favourites from years past.

New this year, are 400 sound-reactive lights at the bandstand. They twinkle and change colours to sound. Visitors can sing, clap and make noise to create their own magical light show.

There is a new Twelve Days of Christmas scavenger hunt, seasonal entertainment and a special display by the Canadiana Costume Society.

Illuminations at Heritage Christmas runs Nov. 23-Dec. 13, from 12 noon to 4:30 pm at the Burnaby Village Museum and then from Dec. 14-Jan. 3, 12 noon-9 pm (closed Dec. 24 & 25)

Admission is free, with carousel rides $2.21

6501 Deer Lake Ave | 604-297-4565 |

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