His work can be found in galleries around the world, but carver Kevin Peters prefers the quiet life in Loon Lake.
The renowned artist says he enjoys the solitude of the lakeside community, where he can walk into the wilderness of Wild Horse Mountain or have hours to create his carvings, including four 3,000-pound statues he was recently commissioned to do.
“It’s a little bit of privacy, a little bit of lifestyle, and a little bit the people, [because] when they do find out who I am and what I do, they don’t treat me different than anyone else, and that’s what I like,” Peters, 52, says.
Born in Yarrow, B.C. to a Mennonite family, Peters began carving stone at 16 on the family farm. The hobby quickly grew into a passion, and within two years Peters was showing his work at major art galleries in Vancouver, including Gastown’s Images for Canadian Heritage. By the time he was 22 he was selling his work, with a growing clientele that included actors and directors in Hollywood.
Peters credits Arnold Barkoff, the Gastown gallery owner, for being good to him, noting he had a talent for connecting him with clients.
“It basically started snowballing when I was 24, I guess, and now thousands and thousands of pieces later I’m represented in Whistler, Banff, Europe, you name it.”
As his career started to take off, Peters realized he needed to distance himself from clients and gallery owners so that he was harder to find. He bought land in Loon Lake in 1998 and moved to the home he built there in 2000. In 2008 Leanne Friesen Peters joined him, and today they and their two young daughters run Wild Horse Mountain Farms. During the first decade, most people didn’t even know what he did, although they eventually found out when a helicopter landed in his field one time.
In 2016 his identity was further revealed following the theft of his solid gold eaglet, the largest casting of gold in the last 400 years. This golden bird was encrusted with diamonds and, Peters says, had an Atocha Star emerald from the shipwreck of Nuestra Señora de Atocha set in its base.
The man who commissioned it, Ron Shore, had intended to sell it and use the proceeds to fund breast cancer research, but was hit over the head and robbed in Vancouver. The statue has not been seen since. Peters says that they know it has not been melted down, and it is not believed to be in North America anymore. Its exact whereabouts remain unknown.
The robbery led many galleries to put Peters’ works in the back to protect them, and resulted in a brief slowdown in interest from clients. However, he was soon busy again, and Peter maintains he is blessed to have a very patient wife, who does all the farming. When he’s working on a project he rarely takes days off, noting that even after close to five decades, he’s still “addicted” to what he does, although he has made some changes.
For most of his career, for instance, Peters relied on his own chisel and other supplies, forged when he was a “poor decrepit artist” back in Vancouver. However, the years have taken a toll on his body, and Peters now also uses a pneumatic air chisel for larger pieces, though the detailing with grinders is still done by hand.
He works primarily on large stone carvings that take months to complete. Stone is an “unrelenting” medium, Peters says, but his clients are willing to spend that time and will commission his work, even in the midst of COVID-19.
One of his most recent works, posted to his Facebook page, is a six-foot-tall bear carved from solid rock, which took Peters years to carve by hand. He has also been involved in multi-million dollar projects, such as the large bronze monuments in Osoyoos that are so big he had to employ all three foundries in B.C. at the same time to provide the required metal. The most famous of these statues, he says, is a nine-foot-tall Sasquatch that has its own Internet following.
Peters prefers carving with soapstone, and is known for his detailed work, grinding and chipping away half the stone before he’s done and only using one slab of stone for his work. He also likes using rainforest marble, jet black chlorite, and whatever other stones his clients request.
He prefers South American stone due to the fact it is not impacted by the effects of glaciation, like deposits found in Canada. He has also carved using other mediums, such as antlers.
Although Peters says he will take on bulk projects, such as carving 20 bears for a single gallery, he grows bored doing the same thing over and over. “You’ve got to keep challenging yourself,” he says, adding that even the rare projects he abandons teach him something new.
Despite his success, Peters remains humble, saying he owes his livelihood to his passion.
“I’m just a farm kid who carved stone and got good at it.”