After almost two years of extensive work, British Columbia’s Kevin Stone has unveiled one of his most ambitious projects, a stainless steel rendering of the Chinese Imperial Water Dragon. The 10-metre long sculpture took Stone 12,000 hours to make and is valued at $10 million.
The Art of Steel
After almost two years of extensive work, Kevin Stone has unveiled one of his most ambitious projects, a stainless steel rendering of the Chinese Imperial Water Dragon.
Weighing almost three tonnes, the dragon measures more than 10 metres long and stands four metres tall, barely clearing the door of the studio in which it was crafted.
If the body coils were unfurled, the dragon would stretch to a length of more than 25 metres.
“I like to work on a massive scale,” said Stone, who crafted the mythological creature at his company, Metalanimation Studio Inc. in Chilliwack, B.C.
“I’m only interested in producing landmark style projects that attract public interest and draw attention to the landscape. There’s nobody else in the world who produces hand-made steel sculptures on this scale.”
Stone began working in commercial steel about 20 years ago, taking positions in the shipbuilding industry and in the fabrication of specialty aluminum and stainless steel products for the food service industry, including microbreweries and dairies.
“I created a gargoyle out of scrap metal I had found around the shop,” he said.
“That led to a private investor offering to back me if I could do something bigger and better.”
Stone established his studio in Abbotsford in 2005, and in 2006, he unveiled Power and Authority, a stainless steel eagle with a 10-metre wingspan in attack stance.
The following year he unveiled Power of Flight, an even larger eagle with a 12-metre wingspan—the world’s largest stainless steel sculpture.
Each of the sculptures is crafted from surgical grade stainless steel and hand-polished to a mirror finish.
“I hand-fabricate old school, cutting and pig-welding each piece, before hand grinding and polishing,” Stone said.
“I try to give the steel a perfect factory finish. Stainless steel is a difficult material to work with. It doesn’t like to bend and it’s extremely hard on tools—I found out the hard way. It’s very expensive to work with, particularly in consumables like carbide bits, polishing pads, paste and grinding discs. The discs only last a few minutes apiece.”
The Imperial Water Dragon, valued at US$10 million, represents 12,000 hours of labour.
“I work at it seven days a week,” he said.
“Way beyond full time.”
Stone’s sculptures have become so well known that his studio is an official tourist attraction of Chilliwack.
Thousands of visitors arrive from early morning until just before sunset.
Stone said they haven’t seen anything yet.
“I’m looking for an even bigger commission, because I want to create something phenomenally big,” he said.
“I want a team of workers to help me create a sculpture on a massive scale. Perhaps a European style dragon with a long neck, an object of fantasy art, or a representation of something found in nature. They’re designed to be near water, like a fountain. Wherever they find a home in front of a casino, a hotel or a public building, I want them to become the symbol of the location in which they’re displayed.”
Stone wants to become the world’s best-known sculptor and to produce works of art that will outlive him.
“Wood will decay and mild steel will corrode, but my sculptures are stainless steel inside and out,” he said.
“They’ll be here for thousands of years.”