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Jack's Blog

An ongoing dialogue of thoughts from Jack

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Richard Gill delivers his clay relief sculpture of me working in my studio

Dec 14, 2017

Richard Gill came to the studio a while back and photographed me working. It was all in exchange for the African Stringed you see here. He liked that and I was thrilled to get a "Gill" sculpture.  Here is the finished piece. 

Forged Spheres

Oct 30, 2017

I've​ seen this somewhere and I wanted to make my own version of it, hence the rock in the center of the sculpture.  I picked up several wagon wheel rims a few months back, and I also acquired this tool for making cold bends in steel flat bar to make circles.  So this is a new series that I'll be working on.

Chris Mussett came to Walden Three and forged a sculpture. 

August 17, 2017

Last week Chris came to the studio and forged a sculpture, and was given the challenge of only choosing three pieces of metal. He used two found objects and forged the other piece. 

Crazy Busy month of June and July

August 2, 2017

The months of June and July was crazy busy for me.  I can see by my last post on June 11th that I haven't updated since that time, and since that time I've completed two other art shows; one in Perth at Kiwi Gardens and one in Renfrew at Art in the Park, and I even managed to have a workshop in the middle of all that.   It's been a good time though. I sold over 30 sculptures; some big and some small and in that were 7 commissions. 

The rest of August will prove to be just as exciting as I'm getting ready for my next show in Toronto at Art Square gallery for the Square Foot Project. (see my Upcoming Events page for details)

Mill Music impromptu art show

June 11, 2017

Steve St. Michael from Mill Music gave me permission to set up my musical instruments at his annual sale and I must say I had a great day. At 1:00 PM the band started on a gorgeous day. Throughout the day I had a lot of good comments on my work, sold a couple of the treble clefs you see in the photo, and then at the end of the day Steve came out and bought the two instruments you see on the left of the panel. Steve is my biggest collector of my musical instrument series. He now owns five.  Thanks Steve.

Making a bell from a propane tank

June 4, 2017

In this short video I show the progress on a massive bell that I made using an old propane tank.  This would sound really good at a camp or a retreat.  I would install this piece to whatever location it needed to be.

Metallic Girl

May 26, 2017

A couple of months back I acquired three manikin girls.  I had them at my studio but I had to dress them because they looked too creepy naked, being flesh coloured and all. So instead of the skin colour i decided to give the girl a coat of metallic paint. Now I feel the piece doesn't look obscene.  

Would like your comments on this. 

City Block: A video update

In this video I describe how things are coming along with this massive epic sculpture called, "City Block".  It represents five city buildings, such as you would see in any major city. 

When the boxes are completely wrapped in metal I'll burn out the boxes leaving me with the sculpture. 


An invitation to come to Walden Three Studio and do what you do. Come and spend some time in a relaxing atmosphere.

If you are a painter, come and paint. If you are a photographer, come and photograph. If you are a poet, come and write poems. If you are a storyteller, come and tell a story. If you are sociable come and socialize.

Food, drinks, campfire, all in all a good time will be had by all.

Jack Stekelenburg makes metal come to life in his studio

By R. Bruce McIntyre

Staff Writer

Renfrew -- When most people drop off scrap metal at a local landfill site, they see nothing but junk piled up in a bin. But when a certain Renfrew artist sees a pile of metal objects, he sees potential and he envisions creating a modern design from whatever may pop into his creative mind.

Calling himself an artist is something that actually came late in life for Jack Stekelenburg. The majority of his adult life was spent in the construction sector both in the Ottawa Valley and Southern Ontario. He specialized in residential home building and although he enjoyed his time living in Kitchener, he realized in the late 1970s he wanted to return to his rural roots and expand his repertoire of skills.

“If you were to ask me 20 years ago if I envisioned myself as an artist, I probably would have had a good laugh,” he said while sipping in a coffee in a downtown Renfrew coffee shop. “I really enjoy building things and construction and homebuilding just seemed to come natural to me. When you build a house you really have a sense of accomplishment. One thing I have always strived for is finding joy in finishing a project.”

In 2005 he made a life-altering decision when he took a course in welding. He originally set out to create garden art blue herons, but he realized after he started welding small artifacts that he would not be satisfied with these simple items.

“I kind of lost all interest in garden art and I began a journey into abstract metal sculptures,” he said. “They were really simple pieces at first because I was just starting out and was just starting to shape my imagination into actual pieces. After a while it just kind of took off and now when I see piles of metal, my mind starts racing as to what I can make out of those old pieces.”

So began his journey of collecting a wide variety of materials that are scattered on an acreage of property located just outside of Renfrew. He has converted an old RV into a studio where he lets his creativity flourish.

An avid and eclectic reader, one of his favourite authors is Henry David Thoreau. He used the title of one his books, Walden, and named his studio “Walden Three Studio.”

“Thoreau’s book is a story about simple living in natural surroundings,” he said. “The book talks about simple living and self-sufficiency and being independent and that is how I see myself. I see potential in simple things and the metal that people discard as junk I see as the basis of something special.”

Most of the materials he uses are dropped off by people he knows. Mr. Stekelenburg also supplements his artistic income by hauling away materials from work sites and residences, and he often finds what he refers to as little gold nuggets in terms of potential to be turned into art.

“When I started out, it was not easy to make a living as an artist,” he said. “When people think of art, they think of portraits that hang on a wall. I am fortunate that here in Renfrew we have a very active art guild that features not only canvas artists, but we have photographers, pottery and people like me who are hard to pigeon-hole as an artist.”

Despite his modesty, Mr. Stekelenburg has gained notoriety over the last few years for his unique pieces. He recently completed a three-week exhibition at The Art Square Gallery, located just a few feet away from the Art Gallery of Ontario. He said that experience really opened up his eyes to the potential of metal art. This summer, he will be showcased at the very popular Art in the Garden exhibit in Perth.

“That Father’s Day event is really a great and diverse show,” he said. “People come from Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto to check out the new additions and the great thing about the show is that people actually purchase art. It is great to showcase, but as an artist, I still have to pay bills.”

As a means to pay his bills, Mr. Stekelenburg has recently branched out to offering workshops at his studio.

He has launched a create your own metal structure and it is geared towards people of all ages. Anyone can register and they spend the day at his studio. They go through hundreds of pieces of metal and together they figure out what they can make.

Mr. Stekelenburg will do the actual welding because of safety concerns, but the student is completely involved in the project. The one-day workshop will include a light lunch and a Walden Three Studio t-shirt with a special message on the shirt.

“I have hosted a couple of workshops already and it is so much fun to watch people get excited about making their own art,” he said. “They learn about metal and welding and they leave with a piece of art they have created. That is something that will last a lifetime.”

When not hosting the workshops, Mr. Stekelenburg is often commissioned to create metal art. His unique style is certainly catching the eye of some local collectors. He has fashioned an electric guitar that is on display at Batstone’s Northern Ramble and inside Mill Music, there are now three metal guitars among the hundreds of real guitars.

Steve St. Michael, owner of the business, said Mr. Stekelenburg is a very talented artist.

“His metal guitars will last forever and they really catch the eye of people when they come in the store,” he said. “He has taken old metal and made was looks like an actual functional guitar…right down to the bridge and strings.”

As the busy summer season approaches, Mr. Stekelenburg is looking forward to introducing more people not just to his unique artifacts, but all types of art.

As president of the Renfrew Art Guild, he is excited with the groups upcoming Pup Up Art series. As part of the town’s Canada 150 celebrations, the guild will be showcasing its artists every weekend on the streets of Renfrew. This is addition to the guild’s annual Art-In-The-Park show that attracts hundreds of visitors every third weekend in July.

“I think Renfrew is really emerging as an artistic community,” he said. “We have Patrick John Mills taking the old foundry and turning it into The Art Factory. Dean Batstone has taken the old Baptist Church and turned it into a premier music venue and local restaurants and coffee shops are showcasing local artwork. These are very exciting times for our community.”

As Mr. Stekelenburg strolls through his metal yard looking for inspiration for his next project, he is content with his decision to embark on this chapter of his life.

“I think it is important that we do something that makes us happy and brings a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “I think I have reached that point, and every day I look for a new challenge and inside my studio, I can turn that challenge into something that will last a lifetime.”

To take part in a Walden Three Studio workshop, call 613- or visit

Local Television interview at Walden Three Studio

This video by Cogeco TV describes in great detail what goes on at Walden Three Studio. 

Renfrew Mercury article

April 13, 7:58 AM

Check out this article written in the Renfrew Mercury. Good write up describing my workshops.

Check out my Workshops page for more information and booking your own studio day.

African Dual Stringed Instrument

March 29, 2017, 10:40 AM

In this short video I describe how I put this interesting guitar sculpture together. 


"From the artist there is no conscious effort to find universal truth or beauty, no effort to analyze other men's minds in order to speak for them. His act in art is an act of personal conviction and identity." 

(David Smith)

Steve buys another guitar for his collection

March 10: 4:41 PM

Over the past few weeks as I was getting ready for my art show I couldn't stop working at what I love to do, so I had a guitar on the go. When I got back from Toronto I spent some more time finishing this guitar and took it in to my friend Steve St. Michael at Mill Music to have a look. I never really intended that I would sell it to him but more so I just wanted to show him, after all, he  has a guitar and a mandolin of mine. You can see his collection of three now in the fourth photo. 

This guitar is very minimalist in nature compared to the other stringed instruments I've made. Basically it's like a line drawing as it does not have the body all filled in with all sorts of found objects. I've also changed the finish on this piece as well. First I painted it black and while that paint was still wet I added a coat of grey pewter paint to the black. And then when these paints were mixing and drying I added six coats of the glaze coating. This gives the guitar a beautiful finish.  

Well Steve was impressed with the piece and had to add it to his collection.  

Rock The Cradle; Showing at Art Square Gallery

March 9: 3:54 PM

This is one of my signature sculptures. It's mainly just a composition and is really not meant to mean anything in particular. I love the movement of the curves in this piece. 

How to Navigate Your Ship

March 3, 2017, 12:10 AM

For many years now I've been trying hard to change the tack of my ship as it sails on the ocean of life. For forty-seven years it's been construction that's put the bologna between my two slices of brown bread, but I've always been passionate about art, and over the past several years I've moved in that direction. 

I like what Henry David Thoreau has to say about this: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you imagined". I've made this my goal: every day do something for the advancement of Walden Three Studio; whether it is working on a sculpture, reading about artwork, dreaming about how being an artist will put the bologna between my two slices of brown bread. I'm happy to report that it's working. Next week I bring several of my sculptures to Art Square Gallery for a three week show. 

Yet.... this can be a scary adventure, because all to often we tend to settle into an existence of mediocrity.  It's hard to move out of our comfort zone.  Over the summer I will post blog entries on how this journey is progressing. 

Two Guitars

Here are the two guitars that I've just made. Both are ready to go to a good home. You don't need to be a musician to enjoy these. 

Two Guitars

Creating a Guitar: Update 3

Feb 28, 2017, 8:00 AM

In this video, the third in a series of "Creating a Guitar", I show how I add the strings to the guitar. The project is almost done. Today I will put on the Penetrol, and then coat the guitar with about nine coats of glaze to give it a really nice shiny look. Today I will also make a guitar stand as well so if someone wants to display this on the floor they will be able to do that as well. 

Creating a Guitar: Update 2

Feb 22, 2017, 3:50 PM

Today I was happy to spend some time in my studio and work some more on my guitar. I got the bottom band put on, the neck installed, the frets, the head stock, tuners and tuning keys. The next thing to install is the strings.  The guitar should be done by the weekend

In this short video, which is the second in the series of "Creating a Guitar", I show some more techniques of putting a guitar together using found metal objects.  In this video I install the bottom band on the guitar. 

Today I saved Bill's life

Feb 20, 2017, 8:12 AM

Today I saved Bill's life.

Bill is my Beta fish that I bought to live in the custom Beta fish bowls that I've been making. (check out Beta Fish Bowls) Bill lives in one of the custom fish bowls I made. I was working in my office and I decided to take a look at where Bill was in his bowl; I check in on him periodically even though he doesn't do much.  I didn't see him at first so I thought he was hiding under his new plastic plant I bought him, but no.... he wasn't there! I looked outside the bowl and there he was, lying on his side on the desk. I picked him up and chucked him back in the water. He must not have been out of the water very long because he started swimming right away. I took some water out of the bowl so he can't swim right out again.

I like Bill. I'm glad I saved his life

Creating a Guitar: Update 1

February 6, 2017, 10:11 AM

In this short video I show some basic arrangements, some cutting and some welding on the guitar I am working on. I had one comment this morning as I posted this on Facebook live that it was interesting to see the actual process. I'm going to post some more videos as the guitar comes to completion. 

A visit from the "Rig a ma jig King"

February 4, 2017, 9:30 AM

I've been working in my studio quite a bit for the last little while. Those of you who know me know that for the past 45 years it was construction work that put the bologna between my two slices of brown bread, but over the past few years I've been making a transition to my art, so I'm hoping that this is the year. It's a scary thing, to move from one way of doing something to another way; a leap of faith actually. More on this in future blog entries. 

In one's life there are many people who inspire you in different ways and for me one of those people is my friend Harry. I've called him the "rig a ma jig king", because he can make anything out of anything, nothing seems to be an obstacle for him. It doesn't always look "pretty", but you can be sure that it works. 

I've seen Harry move from one business to another, never afraid of a new venture. I think he's hit the nail on the head this time though in what he's doing now. He started a business in the Ottawa region, Hedges by Harry, where he trims people's cedar hedges, but that is not where he met with his greatest success. It's his process of extracting the oil from the cedar clippings. He showed me his process that he designed and built all by himself and it's really quite miraculous. 

For me though, Harry shows me his love of life, his love of adventure and exploration. He has taught me that it's OK to move out of one's comfort zone. It's Harry's faith as well that sustains him and I take inspiration from that as well. 

When Henry David Thoreau spoke about moving to the beat of a different drummer, it was Harry that he was speaking about.

Today Harry and his wife are coming for a visit to my studio. I can't be more thrilled

Footnote: February 5, 9:35 AM

We had a great visit today; Harry, Marina and me. We sat by the wood stove and exchanged stories all afternoon. We shared what our kids are doing, and our grand kids. We shared horror stories; I related when I got a big sliver, and Harry told the story of how he cut of half his thumb eight months ago. Fascinating story really. We talked about the projects we were each working on. But most of all I enjoyed catching up with old friends. I should make that a regular event, catching up with old friends that is. 

Cutting Steel for a sculpture

In this short video i demonstrate cutting steel for a metal sculpture I'm working on

Last Day of January

Just a short video to show what my studio looks like in the winter time. Today is a snappin' cold day; minus 25 degrees Celsius. Too cold even to make a fire and work on a project, so I'll go back to the office and work on computer stuff instead. Nice to have that option that's for sure  

My First Blog Entry

January 30, 2017

In 2015 after moving from the Ottawa area to Renfrew I decided I would pursue my passion for art which was put on hold for many years as my priorities turned to raising a family. My kids were now adults and having kids of their own. The picture you see here is one of myself and Corbin, who has actually turned into quite an artist himself. 

For most of my life construction is what put the bologna between my two slices of brown bread, but now as I'm in my early 60's I'm making the transition from construction to creating art work, which is really my passion. 

For any of you who have changed careers you know this is a time of dealing with fears and trepidation. 

This blog will deal with those issues. Hopefully you will be able to relate to some of the things I'm dealing with.

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