Article by Micki Findlay, Photos by Brian Argyle
You’ve waited all winter long for this moment – driving along our island’s coastline — windows rolled down, wind in your hair, sun on your face. Suddenly, something catches your eye.
Cats. Enormous, white cats perched playfully on the roof of a vine-covered house. One is playing the fiddle. Another is catching butterflies. Still another is balancing a tray of drinks. And they are all made out of chicken wire.
Intrigued, you pull over to investigate. You spot an ‘Open’ sign and walk towards it. As you do, you pass a menagerie of alpacas, ducks, geese and pheasants. Your curiosity is piqued even further.
You step through an open door to a flurry of activity and laughter. An art class is in session, so you are hesitant to interrupt.
“Welcome to Cathouse Gallery!” exclaims a friendly voice — that of owner Sheena McCorquodale. An explosion of art fills every wall, nook and cranny. And a gift shop boasts an impressive array of artisan treasures.
Suddenly you see it… a breathtaking sculpture of a dancing woman — her wild hair flowing freely. As you stare, mesmerized, someone says, “Her name is Allegra.”
Allegra is just one of Sheena’s many remarkable wire creations. She explains, “Chicken wire is surprisingly malleable. I enjoy the idea of turning a piece of overlooked, day-to-day material into something that appears to have a life of its own.”
Sheena also teaches others to master this unusual art form. England born, 18-year resident of Qualicum Beach, Sheena is a multidisciplinary, award-winning artist with a background in commercial design.
Her creative expression has taken many forms — graphic art, charcoal sketches, life drawings, sculpture, painting, custom portraits and more.
Capturing the essence and movement of the human form is her specialty, inspired by her early involvement in ballet and synchronized swimming.
Sheena’s creativity began as a young girl. “I drew, braided, painted, sculpted and sewed, using any medium I could get my hands on. I painted outside the lines, declined to use patterns, and would come up with everything from heavily embroidered, reversible dog coats to fully-formed doggie families; created from the red wax of gouda cheese.”
Condo for cats
And her roof-topped cats? It turns out they are her innovative signage for her ‘Comfy Cat Boarding Kennel’. Don’t let the name fool you though — it is more like a cat condo. Each ‘room’ is three stories high with balconies, windows, hammocks, outside access and, (get this), bird and squirrel movies. One customer refers to Sheena as the “Cat Whisperer who was able to tame their ‘wild feline’.”
Sheena’s love of animals includes white doves, which she releases at various ceremonies and events. She is passionate about this eco-friendly alternative to balloon release. “You wouldn’t pop a bunch of helium balloons and leave them scattered on the ground. That would be littering. But it’s somehow okay to release balloons to land in someone else’s garden? Or the ocean? Or around some duck’s neck?”
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken a toll on Sheena’s business ventures, yet her resilient spirit remains undaunted. “I have taken a deep breath, found some incredible audio books to listen to, and have deep-dived into exploring my creative endeavours.”
The pandemic has also put a damper on her community involvement. Sheena is well known for volunteering countless hours organizing fundraisers, donating artwork and serving on various committees. “I love my community. It is the longest I have ever lived anywhere and the closest I’ve felt to belonging. I feel particularly fortunate to be living on this island.”
And this island is fortunate to have you, Sheena McCorquodale.
Click here to watch a short YouTube Video on the Cathouse Gallery https://youtu.be/witYu4HIcv8