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Art stones in Chemainus made with good intentions

Peter Shepherd’s Salish Sea Stones non-profit project benefits children
Peter Shepherd presents a Salish Sea Stone, created by students from the Penelakut First Nation Elementary School, to B.C. Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth, at the B.C. legislature. (Photo submitted)


A Chemainus retiree is turning a hobby into a way to help children in the community.

Peter Shepherd, a retired military instructor, police officer and legislature constable, has been creating painted rocks which he calls Salish Sea Stones since the start of the pandemic.

“It started as a self-therapy method for me in those early months of COVID lockdown. In my struggles for recovery from PTSD, I would explore the peaceful areas near my home in Chemainus,” said Shepherd, a marksman who trained police in Kosovo in 2000-01.

He had seen some painted stones and thought they were pretty, simple and comforting, and so he got his hands on some of the temporary tattoos handed out to children visiting the B.C. Legislature building in Victoria.

“I worked on putting these on small smooth stones I gather in my wanders in my special area on the Chemainus River and areas along the Salish Sea, which is also my healing place,” he said.

The stones are painted white before the tattoos are applied, then comes a protective clear coat and a piece of felt on the bottom.

“I started to give these stones to family and friends and the feedback was that I should sell these,” Shepherd said. “That started me to thinking again and along the lines of starting to give back. As a child, I was helped during some challenging situations.”

The stones that are seen locally have been created by First Nations students at Penelakut Elementary School. All proceeds from the sale of the stones goes to support that school’s educational, cultural, sports and dance programs. Students are encouraged to create their own art to put on the stones.

“This project aims to empower the children, seeing their confidence grow. Each student will have different strengths to bring to the project, so we would like to give them a chance to shine and also encourage them to learn new skills,” Shepherd said. “There are many parts to the stone art process – stone collection, the painting and assembly processes, the intricate personalization of the stones and the marketing of the stones.”

Shepherd is from Scotland and has used his contacts back home to get seven schools in the U.K. participating in creating art stones. He has a goal to get more schools and organizations involved, wishing to help sick children in hospitals and hospice on Vancouver Island and elsewhere, but said he needs more sponsors.

Currently the Salish Sea Stones area being sold at Neck of the Woods general store, Wild Poppy Bistro, Little Otters Den, Salish Sea Market, Cottage and Castle bed and breakfast, and visitor centres in Ladysmith and Chemainus, along with other locations.

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