Northern Wilds Magazine
Inspired by geology, Nipigon artist Roland Choiselat creates everything from rock candle holders and vases to rock mushrooms, sculptures and bird baths. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore Arts

Evolution of an artist: Roland Choiselat

Roland Choiselat was born and raised in the community of Nipigon. His parents Eugene and Lea owned and operated the Sunnyside Cabins which were situated on the former Trans-Canada Highway. After completing teacher’s college in Thunder Bay, he returned to Nipigon and began working at St Edwards. It was the same elementary school that he had attended as a child. He retired 32 years later and wanted to do something different.

Choiselat had always had an interest in local geology, and when he would come across a unique rock, he would not hesitate to bring it home. Wanting to enhance the appearance of his finds, he began polishing them. His favorite stones to work with had reddish hues. But it wasn’t until he came across some magazines that explored more diverse ways of working with rocks, that he decided to purchase a drill rig. It was 3 feet tall with a 20-amp motor that fits the core drills. It was set upon a steel tub that collects the water when operating the drill. Drilling requires water to lubricate and eliminate the dust and tailings.

Choiselat explained, that in the beginning there was a lot of trial and error in understanding how the machine worked. The first lesson he learned was that if the rock was not in a fixed position, the drill bit would break. This led him to making a container to hold the drill and another that would keep the rock stationary. He also learned that softer stones such as marble, is more difficult to drill. Granite has a harder composition and the residue created by drilling is not as gummy.

Once Choiselat became more proficient with the machine, he began making candle holders. His friends were impressed by his unique work and suggested he start his own company. Not sure what to name it, he took his niece’s advice and called it Hole in the Rock Creations.

Choiselat found the drill rig loud and decided to purchase another one that he could operate outside of the house. And like with the first one he purchased, he designed a container to hold it and another for the rocks he would be cutting. His next project was making vases to hold flowers. Then came Choiselat’s signature pieces, which are mushrooms. In his earlier attempts, he made their stems out of wood. But he later learned how to make them out of stone.

Roland with one of his candle holders. | SUBMITTED

Always open for new ways to advance his artistry, he purchased an angle grinder. He used this new machine to flatten the bottoms of his candle holders. This led to his adding glass chimneys to safely contain the flames of the candles. The angle grinder was also great for polishing the surfaces of his finished pieces.

Inspired by the annual bird house auction hosted by the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Choiselat went on to make bird nests. He cut the rocks ring-by-ring until he reached the bottom, which he smoothed with a grinder. To make the nests look even more realistic, Choiselat added moss and small stones that looked like freshly laid eggs.

Another area that he expanded into were pieces that enhance the rustic beauty of yards and gardens. This has led to his placing solar lights inside rocks, constructing bird baths and a bird feeder that is rooted in a 400-pound rock by a post.

He has also made several sculptures for clients; they pick out their own rocks and give him specific directions on how they would like them assembled. These commissioned pieces are usually about 4 feet high and held together by a steel rod.

Choiselat’s approach to his artwork is never forced. It’s an evolutionary process whereby he lets the rocks guide him into what they should become. And nothing gives him more satisfaction than the pleasure he gets in being able to share his works of art with others.

People all around the world possess his creations. Choiselat has also donated several of his pieces to charitable organizations that have used them for fundraising events. One of his rock creations is on display at the community garden in downtown Nipigon.

Anyone that would like to see his work or learn more about how his pieces are constructed can contact him at: holeintherockcreations@shaw.ca.

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