William Laux – His Art, His Castle and a Tower of Bats – Part I

William Laux

By Yvette Brend – Arrow Lakes News December 14, 1988

From the Archives of the Arrow Lakes Historical Society

Photos by Peter Klopp

Bill Laux plans nothing.

Forester, Batik artist and sculptor, he builds his talents like he builds his “castle”, ad­ding walls, arched windows and wood stoves to every room. He prefers not to finish.

“When you put the roof on, that’s as high as it’s going to go, and that’s a sad day,” he said. Visitors pass a “Beware of Bats” sign entering Laux’s property, and may no­tice a strange gnome perched on his chimney. Up the hill, overlooking Arrow Lakes stands his strangest, most imposing creation. Laux be­gan his pet architectural pro­ject in 1969. It symbolizes his entire life.

The 'Castle' that would never be finished

The ‘Castle’ that would never be finished – 1977

He has varied interest from the daring architecture of Huntertwasser, and copies of Col. R.T. Lowery’s witty edi­torials to the tiny brown bats that live under the eaves of his “castle.”

Laux has an English de­gree from the University of Wisconsin, with some chemis­try and science background.

“I took English because it gave me the most freedom,” said Laux, “as long as you took one English course, you could take anything else you wanted.”

He worked as a forester in California before moving to Canada, when the U.S. Feder­al government expropriated his property for a park re­serve. He changed countries and then professions. Laux and his wife Adele, bought 100 acres in Fauquier, where he began a batik studio. Laux had no prior artistic experien­ce, but his chemistry back­ground fostered his inventive skills with dyes for fabric.

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp - 1977

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp – 1977

“I got involved in batik be­cause I was broke – the great­est motivation in the world,” laughed Bill.

The Lauxs moved to B.C. because they loved the valley, and land was very cheap in the interior during the 1960’s.

When B.C. Hydro bought the flood rights to seven acres of Laux’s property he was cautious. Part of his neighbor Logan Bumpus’ land and Laux’s foreshore was flooded. Laux was compensated with a generator to restore his pow­er. He was not disheartened by this event at all, saying it was good luck to be discon­nected from B.C. Hydro. Lo­gan Bumpus never regained his power. [They do have power now.]

Adele, Bill’s wife, died sud­denly in 1967 from blood poi­soning, leaving him alone in Fauquier.

Batik was very stylish in the 1970’s and artists began to gather at Laux’s in the summer to learn the art of waxing and dyeing fabric.

Bill joined with other art­ists to form Vaki studios – a Tarahumara Mexican Indian word meaning “homestead”.

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp - 1977

Batik Purchased by Gertrud Klopp – 1977

When Vaki studios started booming it supported five full time artists, who worked dur­ing the winter and sold on the road two months of the year.

Laux said it took some time before he felt confident as a designer, he excelled at the chemical mixing of dyes and created new dyes for different effects.

He taught Batik techni­ques to students until 1975, but now he prefers to create.

Batik is a form of artwork using waxes and dyes to em­boss a pattern on a natural fabric – usually high quality cotton.

A negative design is drawn on the fabric with wax resist of different consistencies, then dipped into a dye one co­lor at a time, using yellow first, then ruby red, tur­quoise-blue to black, and slowly a design is built.

Originally Batik was sold as yardage for clothing. Batikers created a design and made a yard of it for sewing into garments. For this rea­son many Batik artists had problems as the process was recognized only as craftwork. Crafts have a use; art is creat­ed solely for aesthetic value.

Once completed, a batik is identical front and back. Silk screening – the process or printing fabric with oil based ink – does not produce this ef­fect. Hung in a window, in front of a light source, the ba­tik acts like a stained glass window, casting colored light.

“There’s no way to dupli­cate a batik, except going through the process again,” said Bill.

Different waxes used on the fabrics creates varied ef­fects, a brittle wax creates more of a “crackle” or cracked texture, smoother wax gives an even color. Ba­tiks were in fashion in the 1920’s, and again in the 1960’s, “Oh they’ll come in fa­shion again. ’ ’ said Laux.

Vaki studios sold at least 80 batiks a year, in British Columbia and along the west coast of the U.S. They pro­duced Westcoast Indian de­signs, Mexican Indian patterns, Oriental and floral pat­terns. The artists worked on each other’s ideas, making the operation a co-op studio. Vaki Studios designed an Owl Lo­go for the Calgary Inn. The Inn only bought one batik of the design, fearing the $90 art work would be damaged if placed in the rooms.

“I would recommend this to anybody, when you go into a hotel, with those awful pic­tures on the wall, put them under the bed, and I mean leave them there, ” he said emphatically, “ After a while management may get the hint – It’s visual pollution, but no­body says anything.”

“We couldn’t make enough bullfighter stuff in Calgary,” Bill speculated that many rich Calgarians holiday in Mexico, and admired the Mexican styles of their work.

Indian designs were also popular. Art studio refused to handle genuine Indian artists, and their skills remained in tourist booths – carving totem poles and soapstone.

Some of the titles of his pieces were Toro, Witness Tree, Constipated Owl, and Lovers or Madonna and Child.

Through the growth of his studio, Bill also began work on his “castle” in 1968 with fellow artist, gone architect, Lynne Gilroy. “Those happy days are gone. A lot of art outlets in B.C. have gone bankrupt and can’t make it anymore,” laughed Laux. “If I were to hit the California market now, I’d sell them life sized sculptures of their astrological signs.”

So Laux began to spend more time with his pre­packaging dye and tool busi­ness and his architectural pro­ject. He still does some cus­tom work for commercial in­teriors, such as hotel lobbies and other public buildings.

“When you’re in the art business you have to keep changing. Tastes change.”

Someone gave him the idea of sculpting with steel wool and cement, so he built a strange gnome, which perches on his chimney. After seeing his chimney ornament, a resi­dent of Fauquier commis­sioned him to create a meteor­ite-like chimney pot, and two customers, in Seattle and Wenatchee Washington, have also ordered custom sculp­tures.

Four of his life-sized struc­tures will also be placed on his turret, one for each chimney. He has rigged a pulley system to hoist the heavy pieces into position.

Bill Laux working without a Plan - 1977

Bill Laux working without a Plan – 1977

Laux’s castle can be viewed from his small two le­vel cabin and studio, lower on the property. The ominous structure faces the lake with turrets, endless chimneys and white-framed windows.

“We didn’t draw any plans, we just let it keep growing,” said Bill.

Entering the house, a gey­ser spurts water on its left – perhaps for a fountain? Bill prefers to leave it to the ima­gination.

The house has three main levels and countless smaller rooms on varying levels. The main turret has three levels, one planned as Laux’s bed­room, with a small hatch door on the floor to close off the world.

Laux said he learned “rude carpentry” from his experi­ence as a forester and experi­mented from there.

Two of the chimney statues are in place. They are naked females, one with flowing gol­den hair. The third, a nude In­dian with spear is almost fini­shed, and the fourth is still in Laux’s imagination.

From the turret another chimney topped by an ab­stract chimney pot, made of old dishes, mirrors and brown clay, can be viewed.

The tower also presents a seemingly endless view of the Arrow Lakes. “The higher we

went, the better the view got,” he said.

Downstairs, past veran­das and window frames hand sculpted with Poly filler, the basement floor is heated by a huge log burning stove, and contains Laux mini sawmill he uses to cut the lumber for building. The bathroom and kitchen should be finished by next year, when Laux may move in.

Bill picked up a tiny bat, dead from exposure, on his or­nate windowsill, and gently examined it.

“I don’t plan, I never have planned, because when I plan something, I always change it.”

The Klopp Grandparents V

Miller Master Peter Friedrich Klopp

1852 – 1900

Adapted from Eberhard Klopp’s Family Chronicle

Miller’s apprentice Peter Friedrich Wilhelm Klopp and Emma Christiane (née Bauer) were married on September 27, 1874 in the village church at Jersleben. He was 22 and she was 18 years old. Their marriage of over 25 years was blessed by a phenomenal fecundity, coming close to the Austrian Empress Maria-Theresia. Sixteen children emerged from this union.

Windmill at Osterweddingen, Peter F. Klopp once worked

Windmill at Osterweddingen, where Peter F. Klopp once worked – Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

A few years after the wedding P. F. Klopp became qualified as master miller. Several attempts of running his own mill (e.g. the ‘Düppler Mill’ at the southeast end of Olvenstedt) as well as working in three different other mills in Jersleben failed. Around 1890 already blessed with seven children it appeared that he was finally able to secure a solid economical foundation. Together with his eldest son Friedrich (grandfather of author Eberhard Klopp), who had just finished his rope making apprenticeship, he acquired a house in Wolmirstedt. Peter concentrated on the production and sale of flour, while Friedrich operated the rope making plant. Housing for a very large family, storage facilities for grain, flour and feed, manufacturing shop etc., were all under the same roof.

Rivalries, quarrels, and petty disputes about who was in charge of it all did not create a climate conducive to a prosperous enterprise in the Magdeburger Straße (now Friedensstr.). When brother Ferdinand, also a trained rope maker joined them, Peter began to worry about losing his independence and looked for  a way of dissociating  himself from the troublesome business in Wolmirstedt.

Supported, perhaps even driven by his energetic wife, Peter F. Klopp returned with his family to Jersleben, where he established his own business of producing and selling flour. He seized on a golden opportunity of acquiring a long sought-after watermill. All indications  are that he was not to see his final dream  come to fruition. For documents show that widow Emma Klopp  was the owner of the mill in 1901 one year after her husband’s death. The reader can find more about the tragic event in Chapter 4 of ‘The P. and G. Klopp Story’ on this blog.

 

Another Story on Shady Mr. Fauquier

Mr. Fauquier’s Funk Place!

Submitted by Richard Eichenauer

Why did the local people want to rename in 1967 the settlement of Fauquier into something else, like „Birchpoint“, or „Aqua View“ or „Oakville“, etc.? There were two reasons: One was that many felt, they had a hard time with the pronunciation of the name Fauquier. It sounded too close to a four-letter word, which workmen and loggers used all the time, but couldn’t be said in the company of ladies. The other reason was that some of the old-timers felt that Mr.Fauquier, who had given the little settlement its name, had been a „crook“ about 80 years earlier.

Besides various stories I heard from the then still living old timers about embezzlement of government moneys by Mr.Fauquier, I also heard the story of how he tried to „ailinate“ a prime section of „Crown land“ with a stroke of his pen from some first settlers that had gone to the trouble of staking that piece of land according to the laws of the land. The piece of land in question lies about 1 km south of the present day ferry landing on the Fauquier side.

In those long gone by days, you could get a 1/4-section (160 acres) by “staking a homestead“, build an abode for yourself and family, clear enough land for a garden and some fruit trees and living on this land, improving it over a period of about 5 years, pay almost next to nothing for the land, and then get the „title in fee simple for a free hold“.

The „Staking“ for a homestead in those days, I was told, had to be done on the 1st of January in a given year. You would have had to explore the parcels of land that had been „written out“ in the previous year, and see what it was like: location, soil type, water availability, access by trail, road or water, if there was a lake near by.

The first of January in this country and in those years meant between 2 and 6 feet of snow on the ground, and the temperature to go with it. Needless to say, there were no roads then and you had to hike into the place you desired to claim by staking it. And staking meant that you had to go to the approximate corners of the 160 acres and pound a marked stake into the frozen ground – as early as you could do so, so as to be the first on site to do just that, especially if you were going after a prime location in a valley where there was not much flat land anyway, and possibly with access to a lake, on which sternwheelers held a reliable connection to the rest of the world. And for such a prime location you better went early, real early, namely New Year’s midnight – at the best in partial moonlight stomping through all that snow around 160 acres.

160 acres in this case was roughly a square with a side length of 800m. To stake the 4 corners, you had to stomp a minimum of 3.2 km, plus the way there from wherever you had your covered wagon or camp – through rough virgin forest – in deep snow, in the dark!

In 1890 or there about, the Funk brothers had all done the appropriate steps and hikes at New Year’s midnight. When they came to Nakusp a day or two later to register their homestead land claim, the government registrar, who was Mr. Fauquier then, informed them that that piece of land had already been claimed. The brothers asked by whom. Mr.Fauquier refused to tell them. The brothers told Mr. Fauquier that they had not met anybody at New Year’s midnight and that they claimed that land.

You can imagine the rage the brothers felt when it turned out later that Mr.Fauquier had claimed the 1/4-section lakefront land for himself by just writing in his name in the papers without going through the necessary steps and hardship of staking it. The Funk brothers finally were granted title to the land in question, to Lot 7604 and not Mr.Fauquier. He somehow ended up on a parcel that is now the Fauquier golf course, which previously had been „Fauquier’s Landing“ during the times, when sternwheelers were still plying the Arrow Lakes and Fauquier’s place became a stop for the boats.

Marie Kegler, Stalwart of Christian Faith – Part II

Aunt Marie (Tante Mieze)

In a previous post I described how Marie Kegler got to look after me for an entire year in 1954. That was the year when she resumed work as teacher at the Elementary School in Brünen. She had found modest accommodation at a miller’s farmhouse. You can read more about it in greater detail in an upcoming chapter of the P. and G. Klopp Story.

Marie Kegler on the Balcony of our Wesel Apartment

Marie Kegler on the Balcony of our Wesel Apartment

In 1955 she managed to land a teaching position in the nearby city of Wesel on the River Rhine. At a time, when there was a great housing shortage in the bombed-out city, she located a two-bedroom apartment. At last, Mother, who had become Tante Mieze’s housekeeper in exchange for room and board, was able to reconnect with me. Marie Kegler retired in 1957 and in 1962 the two sisters accepted my uncle’s invitation to share a rental house in Watzenborn-Steinberg. The new place turned out to be a veritable beehive of relatives and friends dropping in for a taste of the pleasant hospitality, which Uncle Günther, Chief of the Kegler Clan and avid Doppelkopf player, his wife Aunt Lucie, Aunt Marie, and my mother were tirelessly offering to their guests. I have the fondest memories of my frequent weekend visits during my army years. Aunt Mieze as during the time in Wesel continued to provide spiritual leadership by daily reading from a devotional booklet and saying grace and thanks to God at breakfast, lunch and dinner time.

Pretending to Play the Guitar

Trying out my  Guitar

Alas, Aunt Lucie passed away after a lengthy illness. When Uncle Günther remarried and moved with his new wife Aunt Friedel to Kassel, a very happy period of family togetherness came to a sudden end. Tante Mieze could not afford to pay the rent. Even if she had had the means, the house in Watzenborn was too large for just two people. So they moved to Bad Ems in the beautiful Lahn Valley, where they lived in Haus Abendfrieden (House Evening Peace) for another six years. In 1980, Tante Mieze became very ill. The Senior Citizen Home, where they stayed, had no intensive care facilities. Thus, they had to move to Gladenbach close to the picturesque medieval city of Marburg. Shortly after Tante Mieze had been taken by ambulance to the Old Folks Home, she died at the age of 89.

Südfrankreich 1965 Gerhard Margit Günther Lucie Erika Johanna Mieze

Günther, Gerhard, Mother, Johanna. Margot, Lucie, Marie Kegler in Southern France

Deeply steeped in the Christian faith, she led a life that in my view was exemplary. When she saw other people in need, she was always ready to help.Thankfully I will always remember her kindness to invite Mother to join her in Wesel. With her financial help I was able to finish my German High School diploma. without which my teaching career in Canada would have been unthinkable. After we emigrated to Canada, she kept mailing devotional booklets to her niece and nephews in the hope to provide some spiritual guidance. I must admit I did not take the time to read them. My brother Gerry too was not too interested either and irreverently called them flyswatters (Fliegenklappen).

In the world we live in we appraise a person’s success in life by standards, such as wealth, status, popularity, etc. God on the other hand looks at the motives and favors the purity of the heart. Aunt Marie’s actions always spoke louder than words. Love and compassion for her fellow human beings were the guiding principles throughout her entire life.

Memory Fragments by Anke Schubert

Lenzen

Lenzen near Anke’s Hometown Mellen – Photo Credit: Lea@Flickr

Reflections on Early Childhood Memories

Anke Schubert (Chart II a – IV)

Translated by Peter Klopp

Do you feel the same as I do? The older you get, the more in your memories you return to your childhood years. That’s at least how it is with me, especially now that the children have grown up and are taxing my physical and mental strength around the clock any more. Thoughts are stirring, nostalgic and regretful at times, because happy days, familiar places and dear people are gone forever, but I am also filled with joy, because they were once present way back in long-gone times.

Actually I thought that I would remember next to nothing at all about my earliest childhood. But sometimes and quite suddenly like out of the blue a memory shoots through my mind, a piece of the past, an event of my childhood, often only a single image without any connection. The more these ‘memory fragments’ go back in time, the smaller, the more scattered they appear to be. Yet, as the thoughts travel back more frequently, other thoughts rise and flash on my inner horizon. Often I no longer know how they are connected. In fact, it is next to impossible to maintain a reliable sequence of the fragments in my early childhood memories.

But that is actually not so important.I simply try to nail down a few of these fragments, before they vanish forever into the abyss of eternal darkness. There are some events, which I no longer know or cannot know at all, because they happened before I was born, for example, how my parents got to know each other. These things I will draw from old letters and later down the road from my old journals. Who knows there might be somebody somehow involved here, who might add something to whom I may pass on to read the rough copy of my scribbles. They may perhaps contribute a couple of their own memories to turn the individual fragments into a cohesive picture of my – or much better – of our childhood in Gulow and in Mellen.

The Ending of the Mystery Story (Chart I – III)

The mystery story should rather be called mysterious, perplexing and horrifying. The reader might question the audacity and recklessness on my part to send such a horrible piece of writing to my girlfriend. What kind of love letter was this supposed to be?! How would a girl, just 19 years old, respond to the horrors of a subterranean cave dweller other than with total rejection of the young suitor, who had just revealed his otherworldly distorted sense of reality?

As it turned out Biene was deeply touched by the story, even though it did not have a good ending. But she had the advantage of getting the entire story in one piece. She also found that the story was based on a real event that took place at our yard back home, when I was on a weekend leave from the West German army. Uncle Günther was upset that mice had dug deep tunnels into the ground and if unchecked would have eventually ruined the wonderful lawn of the backyard. I witnessed how he flushed out the mouse with the garden hose and stomped on her as she was trying to escape out of her flooded den underground.

Sorting out some old documents, I came across a handwritten booklet of the mouse story and thought it might be of interest to some of the readers of my blog.

Plötzlich blendete sie grelles Tageslicht. Mit einem Satz sprang sie hinaus ins Trockene, in die Freiheit, ins Leben. Keuchend und zitternd vor Atemnot, aber glücklich für das zum dritten mal geschenkte Leben, lag die Frau da, bemerkte zu spät den dunklen Schatten, der vernichtend auf sie niederhieb. Kein Zufall, kein hier und dort treffender Schicksalsschlag, höhere Absicht bis in die letzte Einzelheit gewollt, begründet auf einen unerklärlichen Zorn, waren ihre letzten Gedanken, die ihr durchs Gehirn schossen. Der Hieb des unbekannten Gewichts saß haargenau. Es entschwand sogleich wieder in die blaue Höhe, um das Opfer gleichsam höheren Blicken freizugeben. Bestimmt schon tot, wenn auch das bloßgelegte Herz noch tüchtig pochte. Das Blut, das nach allen Seiten gespritzt war, färbte das welke Gras mit grellroter Farbe. Unter dem plötzlich schweren Druck sprizte nicht nur Blut in die Natur. Der Leib hatte die innere Last nicht mehr halten können. Umgeben von zuckendem Gedärm lagen blind und nackt die ungeborenen Kinder auf dem Geröll der Erde! Welch ein erschaudernder Anblick! Kann einem Menschen soviel Leid geschehen, wie es dieser jungen Maus geschah?

 

Mit lässiger Fußbewegung stieß der Mann die Überreste der Maus in das Loch zurück. Sie war ihm schon lange ein Dorn im Auge gewesen und hatte ein großen Teil seines Ziergartens unterwühlt. Nun holte er den roten Gartenschlauch aus dem Nachbarloch und spülte die blutigen Körperfetzen in den Schlund zurück. Zufrieden steckte er sich seine Pfeife an und sog den aromatischen Duft in seine Lungen. Die Schuld war beglichen.