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Sculptor Fathom's Mother's Gems debuts at Four Seasons

Marble sculpture is part of a series of 100 by Whistler artist and his workshop
Playfulness and patience Detail from Mother's Gems, the latest work from the Jon Fathom Art Gallery. It is the second of 100 planned sculptures that sculptor is making from Alaskan marble. Photo by Jeremy Postal

Jon Fathom of Fathom Stone Art Gallery has completed his second enormous polar bear sculpture of a planned series of 100.

Called Mother's Gems, it depicts triplet cubs climbing over their patient mother, who is lying on arctic ice.

"I had a few options with what we could do with the block (of marble) but we wanted to focus on the cubs, highlight the cubs. So we did the mother bear lying down and the cubs lying on the mom. It turned out amazing," he says.

Mother's Gems is currently on display in the foyer of The Four Seasons Resort's private residence wing.

Fathom says he wasn't so much trying to tell a story as he was trying to take a "snapshot" of a moment.

"We were trying to express the playfulness of the cubs through marble, which is difficult," he says. "Each cub has its own expression and life to it. The mom is the base of the piece."

Mother's Gems took 25 months, almost full time, to complete. It is on sale for $450,000.

"We took our time. Doing three cubs is a lot of work. I love the detail on the fur all the way around it. Each cub is a couple of feet long and represents a three-month-old (animal)," Fathom says.

He uses a team of artists in his workshop to create the final piece. The lead artist on the Mother's Gems project was Patrick Sampson.

"I had three or four guys working on it for the last eight months in my studio. A lot of effort. And the year and a quarter before that was just getting the block down to the basic shape in order to carry out the detail work."

Fathom says he wanted to do something totally different from Amazing Grace, his first sculpture in the series.

Amazing Grace now resides in Toronto, purchased by a man who had been staying in the Four Seasons' private residence, where the sculpture had also been on display.

Its price tag was $400,000 and sold just three months after going on display.

It now sits in its owner's garden and "looks awesome," says Fathom.

The Tokeen marble used for both came from an island off the Alaskan panhandle, near Haida Gwaii. The quarry that supplied the 100 huge blocks Fathom has been given access to was abandoned in 1927, despite the stone being known for its pure white colour and high quality.

"It's from Alaska's only ever opened marble quarry on Marble Island. It was originally used all over North America as cladding for buildings and flooring," he says.

Fathom, originally from Juneau, Alaska, wanted to depict polar bears in order to raise awareness of the pressure the carnivores are under thanks to climate change impacting their surroundings.

Asked about the length of time it takes to make such elaborate pieces, Fathom says the process is slow but he intends to work on more at the same time as the project goes forward.

"We are averaging one a year right now, but... maybe the next wave, we'll maybe do two a year and so on... I'd like us to be making five at a time. I would like to get the 100 done sooner rather then later," he says.

Fathom says that once Mother's Gems sells he would like to donate part of the proceeds to Whistler's bear awareness program, the Get Bear Smart Society.

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