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Kerras Jeffery leads snow sculpture team to Quebec's Winter Carnival

by Sue Gallant

Island folk artist, Kerras Jeffery will captain one of ten Canadian teams at the 2003, International Snow Sculpting Event of the Quebec Winter Carnival. He is seen here wearing the special hat he has fashioned to wear at the eventIsland folk artist, Kerras Jeffery will captain one of ten Canadian teams at the 2003, International Snow Sculpting Event of the Quebec Winter Carnival. He is seen here wearing the special hat he has fashioned to wear at the event

Prince Edward Island folk-artist Kerras Jeffery of Alma has been chosen to head one of ten Canadian teams about to compete in the prestigious International Snow Sculpture Event of the Quebec Winter Carnival. The Canadian category of the International Snow Sculpture Event takes place January 31 to February 2. This year, the 31st edition of the entire event, begins on January 31 and runs until February 9.

Jeffery's humourous folk art is a now familiar sight in Island galleries and at a number of others nationally. Jeffery, who has been working out of the Back Road Folk-art Gallery in Western P.E.I. for the past half dozen years, has recruited two of his brothers and a friend to make up the team he will captain in Quebec. The fact that Jeffery's chosen team mates are not fellow artists but an architect, a contractor and a motel owner respectively, is, he says "not a concern." He is more anxious that he has never carved a block of snow before in his life and confesses to only ever having traveled outside of the Maritimes once previously.

To prepare, Jeffery consorted with experienced Island snow sculptor and visual artist, Gerald Beaulieu of Montague. Beaulieu gave Jeffery valuable instruction on technique and how to hand build snow carving tools.

Jeffery says no power tools are permitted in the competition; the work has to be done using axes, wedges and ice slices. Each team is given a block of snow 3.6 metres wide, by 2.4 metres high, by 2.4 metres in depth, from which they must use the maximum of space. The location of each team's block is determined by random draw. When registering, each team must present their project by sending either a clay model or photograph of it, in perspective, at different angles. It is forbidden to make major modifications to the project after it has been selected by the jury. Forty percent of awarded points are given for respecting the original project. Jeffery is making a chicken sitting on a nest containing fresh snowballs. Why a chicken?

"Just because it's the kind of art I do," said Jeffery.

The International Snow Sculpture Event jury criteria states that the sculpture must be designed by the team and only for the Quebec Carnival Event. The sculpture must never have been realized in snow before. Teams are awarded forty percent of points for creativity: originality in the development of the concept; for balance-distribution and movement of shapes; for challenge-risks and difficulties; and for play of shadow and light. An additional forty percent of marks is awarded for technique: treatment of the various surfaces; maximum use of the block of snow; cutting technique and quality of assembly; and adherence to project (model versus actual sculpture). The final twenty percent of marks is awarded for coherence of the project: development of the theme (intention versus perception); and clarity of the project (expression, meaning and communication).

Four honours are awarded following judging of completed snow sculptures. The first is the Canada Award of Excellence to determine who will represent Canada in the International category, 2004 Edition.

For Jeffery and his team, participation is all about having fun, and having the opportunity to promote his artwork and his beloved Western PEI to the many who will attend the event. Jeffery has secured two sponsors to assist with transportation, insurance and personal expenses involved in attending the Snow Sculpting Event. They are the Tignish Credit Union and the Western P.E.I. Tourism Association.

"The biggest compliment anybody could give to my work is to laugh at it," says Jeffery. "If I do something, the funnier I can make it, the better." As a publicity stunt, Jeffery has made a special folk-art hat to wear at the event, to help him stand out from the crowd. Jeffery's skunk hat has an aerosol can spray nozzle protruding from its rear end, and folk-art emblazoned across the ear flaps. "What other dink would have a skunk on top of their head!" asks Jeffery?

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