An electrician by trade, Dale Shippit’s work has brought him to many, often isolated places across the province, including an eight-month live-in working contract in Fort Chipewyan, which helped bring out his inner artist. “I found myself on construction sites where they were throwing out all these good materials,” he says. “So I kind of started off as a bit of a scrounger.”
In 2009, he found himself with a wife and child in their first home as a family, which he heated with scrap wood in the stove he installed. “For the first year after we bought the house, I was a bit house bored. So I wanted to do things that I enjoyed, that wasn’t work. I started making things for friends and family, and myself — tables and benches and stuff. And then that kind of spiralled into the small business side of things.”
That small business has turned into Dale Shippit Studio, a collection of his paintings and sculptures he identifies as stories told through abstract expressionism, but clarifies, “It’s not about smashing the canvas with random colours. I use shapes and forms…to represent people, emotions and movements in both my sculpture work and paintings.” His website prominently features “New Ground,” a pink, partially perforated steel-and-powder coated sculpture that ties back to his trip to Fort Chipewyan.
“I got the idea for it on that trip, which I knew was going to be a life-changing experience, because I’ve always wanted to go back and work with Indigenous communities, but didn’t really know how to do that. So I talked with [famed Indigenous educator] Lewis Cardinal about how I am drawn to Indigenous spirituality, but how do I tell my story so that I’m not appropriating people’s culture?
His question to me was: What’s next? What does it look like to be a Ukrainian settler from that lineage? He was like, ‘If you go back far enough, you’ll find that your family would be from the land of some sort, too.’ I think humanity — you can boil it down to: We come from very similar places.”