On the map and out of this world

September 2022

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

For anyone even remotely interested in books or fantasy, that quote is immediately familiar, being the opening paragraph from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, ‘The Hobbit’ But for Jamie Young, of J&K Creations, it’s taken on a very different meaning.

“One day, I was sitting in my beautiful backyard in Wesfort,” says Young, “And I realized that I wanted to look at something other than a typical garage. I decided it would make a good Hobbit house.”

As a friend of Jamie’s, I wasn’t surprised when he told me of his intention to turn his garage into a Hobbit hole. In fact, I’m never surprised when Jamie tells me he’s going to build anything out of this world. For you see, Jamie Young is an architect of imagination.

“I’ve been creating ever since I was a kid,” he says fondly. “I remember when I was 5 years old, we had to make mosaic dioramas in Art class. I told the teacher I didn’t want to, so she asked me what I did want to make. I told her

I wanted to make a space costume and she let me. I made a helmet and shoulder pads out of tin foil and used an egg carton for a computer chest plate!When I was 6, I made K-9 (the robot dog from Doctor Who) using a toaster for a body, a plant pot for his head and a tire gauge for his retractable nose gun! The cord from the toaster was his leash. I was always using Christmas lights to light up my toys and stuff.”

Young was born in Chippenham, Wiltshire, and grew up in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, but it wasn’t until he moved to Canada that he discovered the universal crafter’s material called EVA Foam in the basement of a house he’d moved into. He was fascinated by its adaptability and began to fashion props from his favourite TV shows and movies out of it. One of his signature costumes is a Ghostbuster, complete with functioning proton pack and ghost trap to the utter delight of children (and adults) at Hallowe’en!But it was his build of a Star Wars AT-AT Walker that set him on a remarkable journey, much like Bilbo Baggins himself.

“The magazine, Star Wars Insider, used to have a section where people could submit their art, so I did,” says Young. “The editor contacted me and said they wanted to do an article on my work. Being a stay-at-home dad, I did the interview by phone from my bathroom! It was the only quiet place where I could get away from my kids!”

Normally the magazine only features people who have worked in the industry, so Young was surprised to see a full article on his creations. He admits that it helped give legitimacy to his craft and encouraged him to keep creating. Since then, he’s been featured a second time and has had another build featured on their website.

Jamie’s growing portfolio and reputation as a prop maker quickly caused him to be invited to fan conventions in Manitoba and Ontario, and it was at one of these conventions where he met Krista Whitfield, the woman who would eventually join him in J&K Creations. Krista became friend,then wife, then partner in the business of creating.

“Krista has input into design and helps with creative ideas,” says Young. “And because of her encouragement, I’ve broadened my creative media. I no longer just do foam props. I’ve branched out into spray paint art, book nooks, pencil art and polymer clay, diorama building, pyrography and most recently, woodworking. I managed to pick up woodburning during lockdown and the feedback has been amazing.”

Maya Angelou once said “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have,” and Jamie is proof of that. With artistry and talent bursting from every pore, I asked him how he manages working a day job alongside such a thriving and diverse creative journey.

“I’m always looking for new ways to express myself,” he says, “And I get enjoyment out of everything I create. Sometimes I want to scream and pull my hair out, but it is all enjoyable, from doing templates, to woodburning, to spending hours researching my next build. I can’t say I have a favourite. It’s dependent on my mood. I often start one thing and mid-way through, start something else!”

However, as Sylvia Plath affirmed, “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Young is candid about his struggles with mental health, as it is very much a part of his artist’s temperament. Recently, he collaborated with Shaw Media on a film project emphasizing the importance of art and creation in the maintenance of mental health.

“I don’t shy away from admitting that
I, like many, often struggle with depression,” he says. “I’ve found that if I don’t create something for a week or two, whether it is drawing a picture or building a prop, I start struggling. I feel that by talking about it and about how I’m able to fight and survive my depressive bouts through the creative process, I may be able to help encourage others to find ways to express and work through their struggles. I’ve often found that when I am going through a depressive bout, there is no rhyme or reason to it and, while I have a wonderful support group, sometimes I’m unable to talk about it or explain it to someone, so I create. It allows me to express my feelings without having to understand them or verbalize them.
I find when I am creating, my thoughts are clearer and I’m able to recompose myself. I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that I can do this.”

“You use a glass mirror to see your face. You use works of art to see your soul.” -George Bernard Shaw

And as I sit and have tea on Jamie and Krista’s deck, I gaze across the yard at the round green door, and I know the marvels that are inside that ‘not-so-ordinary’ garage. But I also know that it is nothing compared to the marvels that are within this artist’s remarkable imagination. Like a hobbit going on an adventure, J&K Creations bring a little bit of fantasy to our quiet northern town, and they’re spreading a little magic as they go.

To learn more about J&K Creations, check out their page on Facebook, their shop on Etsy, or the many local craft shows and conventions with a fantastical flair. The Shaw video is available to watch at Shaw Spotlight on YouTube or Facebook.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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