Local rock hound carves a 9-tonne granite grizzly bear

Chilliwack’s Paul McCarl’s about to complete a carving project 14 years in the making

Standing proudly next to his very own grizzly bear, Paul McCarl’s dedication and passion about his work is easy to see. The local rock sculpting artist has been shaping rocks of all sizes into his own unique creations for more than three decades.

However, for nearly half of that time period, McCarl has been working on turning a 12-tonne salt and pepper granite boulder into a crouching grizzly bear, which is now in its finishing stages.

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“It’s a project that I’ve been working on for about 14 years, now,” said McCarl. “And I’m about 14- to 1,500 hours into it.”

A retired RCMP officer with 35 years of public service under his belt, the “rock hound” says his mom encouraged his artistic side at a young age. And as he grew up, his artwork progressed from sketching on paper to wood carvings, to shaping the hardest types of rock in the world.

Found in a Mission quarry and delivered to his home, McCarl has chipped away at least three tonnes of the boulder’s mass by hand to reveal his vision, which he says will be finished this summer as all that’s left is polishing the rock face to a water-like sheen.

But he doesn’t know where it’s going to end up. Although it was agreed the man who helped him originally get the boulder will be the first to have the opportunity to purchase the giant grizzly, there’s no guarantee he’ll provide a new home for McCarl’s bear.

And while McCarl has spent years perfecting his grizzly sculpture, during that time he also managed to carve another 178 stone sculptures while working as a police officer on a provincial crime unit.

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“I have one on display in the Canadian Senate and another in the Parliament buildings,” said McCarl. But he adds the majority of his work ends up in the European and Asian markets, which is where the grizzly may end up if a Canadian doesn’t buy it first.

But as part of his artistry, McCarl says he likes to give back by teaching his skill to others. “It’s great watching them develop,” he says of past teaching experiences.

This spring, McCarl’s agreed to partake in the Chilliwack Public Library’s Art in the Stacks series, which runs the last three Wednesdays in April, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During his exhibit on April 11, McCarl says he’ll be offering a carving demo: from block, to fretted, to rough cut, to finished product. And while it may not be the same piece in every step due to time restrictions, McCarl says his process will be explained in detail.

“I want to help people explore their boundaries,” says the stone sculpture. “I want to encourage (them) that life’s short and they need to take every advantage to keep growing and keep it interesting.”


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