Neshka Krusche of NeshkaDesign has a background in jewellery making and graphic design, but the the cedar driftwood on BC’s coast inspired her artistry on a much larger scale.“[Pre-COVID], I went to the West Coast off Vancouver Island, and saw all this amazing cedar and fir lying on the beaches,” she remembers. The Alberta-based designer hauled the materials back to her studio outside of Calgary and got to work.

She was able to completely transform the materials to serve a new purpose, and The Cedar Story was born. “I didn’t know what to expect from working with wood, and I didn’t expect the thoughtfulness that goes into working with it,” she says. The initial hurdle was getting the wood to adapt to the Calgarian climate, which was no easy feat. If it’s -20 or -25 degrees, the propane (used for charring the materials) completely liquifies. “Then I have to go and warm up myself and the propane and the wood,” she says. 

The concept of adapting took on a whole new meaning when the world changed last spring, around the time Krusche started a project called Where Do We Stand? “Wood is such a calm and forgiving and patient material. I was interested in how the wood adapts, and how we can adapt,” Krusche says, “it was just a matter of finding the right time to do it.” She always had sculpture in the back of her mind, even as a design student at Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts). Everyone got a lot more time than they bargained for last year, Krusche included. 

Compared to her previous work, Krusche describes sculpting as a different type of intensity. “There’s structure to it. The trees demand a different approach,” she says. It also isn’t a manufacturing process. “There’s no ‘one recipe’—each piece is different.” 

Creating sculptures is an instinctual process as well. “I hardly ever have to think, I just do it. That’s a different level of work. I probably sound new-age,” she chuckles. “I surprise myself.” 

As for the response to the collection? “Albertans love the idea that the materials were from the West Coast, it carries a different energy,” says Krusche. “A calm, and a possibility of renewal—of a new way to do something—is there.”

The response has also encapsulated the feeling each sculpture gives people with clients noting the ‘interesting presence’ in the pieces. “Someone called it ‘soulful minimalism.’ I thought it was a fun name for it, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with it myself,” Krusche says.  

Krusche is proud of what she calls the “blink of the moment impression” that people get from her work. She describes it as the first feeling her clients get upon seeing her work, without having any background knowledge on what the pieces represent or where they come from. 

The name of the art has a dual meaning, related to both the environmental responsibility we have, as well as asking the question to the materials used—how will they be formed, where will they stand? “I am convinced that we need to do more, environmentally,” says Krusche. “We’ve failed in many ways, but where do we stand now?”