A semi-retired architect is the mind behind an “enchanted forest” art installation that has seen candlelit, coloured ice globes pop up along some of Collingwood’s trails.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with David Jefferies, 70, architect and member of Collingwood’s heritage committee.
Q: For how long have you lived in Collingwood?
A: For 10 years, my wife and I owned a second property in the Beaver Valley. We were here a lot, and got to know Collingwood.
We had plans to get back to Collingwood which came to fruition in November 2020. It’s been about 14 months, we’ve been here.
Q: Where are you from originally?
A: I’m originally from Oakville. I was there for all of my growing-up years.
I went to the University of Waterloo for architecture. My wife Gail was from Oakville and we were married in my last year of architecture school.
We’ve lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa.
My background tended to be in large commercial projects. About 10 years ago, I thought about moving into a semi-retirement. We found a large property north of Kingston (South Frontenac Township) and lived there while I worked overseeing the development of six or seven prison projects. I became a prison architect. (laughs)
It was quite a learning experience.
Architecture is a great profession. It can be challenging, but it’s personally satisfying. It’s a permanent part of our cultural and economic heritage.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an architect?
A: There were early indicators – things that I was doing when I was a child.
When I applied for schools, I also applied for engineering and gave consideration to law. My math marks were quite high. I had a strong technical background but I also had an artistic side that came along. It was something that evolved for me in my 20s.
I never looked back.
Q: After moving to Collingwood, you joined the heritage committee. What made you want to join up with that committee?
A: Well, it’s very common for architects that when you come to a place, you want to learn why it is the way it is. Why are the roads the way they are? Why was it developed the way it was?
I’ve done that in Calgary, Oakville and in South Frontenac Township.
I saw there was an opening here and I felt honoured to be chosen. I’m still learning a lot.
Collingwood is an incredibly walkable town and punches way above its weight. The quality of the buildings and the trail system... the incredible architecture.
Q: You’ve been creating a little art installation along some of Collingwood’s trails recently. Can you tell me where the idea started and why?
A: About 10 years ago when we were in South Frontenac, we were in the dead of winter and, where we were, had no lights. We had about 25 neighbours near us.
I wanted to place some lights out in the forest, as kind of a magical thing. I started by making them and placing them along the driveway. The easiest way to do it is with candles.
I would place these candles along the road, or in the forest. I got better at it.
The weather we’re having now is so ideal, in the -20 Celsius range.
I read up on the interesting things like this they do in Norway, Sweden, Alaska and other northern areas. I’d like to do more ice sculptures.
I fill up balloons with water and sit them outside. When they’re outside at -20C, over a 12 to 24-hour period, you get about an inch of ice (along the outside). At about 36 hours, you get about two-inches of solid ice and then you can pour out the cavity.
There are manufactured moulds you can buy but I found they didn’t work as well.
I tried putting dyes and colours in it, but food colouring doesn’t last in sunlight, so I tried some translucent watercolours. We tried different candles. They last between three and four hours. Sometimes it gets so cold we have trouble getting the lighter to work.
My craft supply place in town is Dollarama. (laughs)
My grandson Jackson has been staying with us for the past three weeks because of online learning. We’ve had a great time, working on this together. He’s really keen about it. He’s five years old.
It’s kind of a family creation out there this year.
Q: Where have you been placing the globes?
A: There’s a little trail near the corner of Williams St. and Collins St. near the Lockhart Meadows neighbourhood. It’s far enough away from all the street lighting. It doesn’t work as well when there’s a lot of street lighting.
We refer to it as The Enchanted Forest. People take their dogs and kids through. It’s a positive thing.
Having lived in Ottawa, we had winter carnivals. Celebrating the cold and this unique aspect of Canadian life is great.
I was trying to encourage other people in my neighbourhood to make their own and place them out too. It would be great if everybody put a couple of globes out at night to make it a unique experience.
I post on our community Facebook page when I put them out.
I could see doing this in numerous locations.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: I’m hopeful, in my semi-retirement, to improve my art skills. Life is a continual learning experience. I took an art course here and I hope in the future that I can build on my previous background to improve the art that I’m doing.
My wife Gail and I are so excited to have moved here. It was definitely the right choice at the right time in our lives. We’ve lived all across Canada throughout our lives, but you can’t beat the dynamic lifestyle that is here in Collingwood.
It’s no wonder it’s attracting a lot of people.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email email@example.com.