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TEL: 819-827-9081  | EMAIL:  dotb@magma.ca By Commission - D. Bonnenfant - Artisan

Sample Designs

This paddle was presented to Max Finkelstein, recipient of the 2009 Bill Mason Award

This paddle was presented to Max Finkelstein, recipient of the 2009 Bill Mason Award at the Canadian Heritage Rivers Conference.

A blank paddle is intimidating and this one for Max left me blank as a doorknob! After a few months and many (!) false starts....I decided to just draw right on the paddle to see what would come. To trust my hand and intuition. The song 'Blackbird' kept running through my mind, as did legends, stories and memories of raven the trickster, the ingenious crow, the dove bringing an olive branch to Noah, how the loon got its necklace, the dove of peace, nightingales and whippoorwills singing us to sleep, the grace of herons in flight, hawks soaring, and ....oh yes..... geese flying north in incredible migrations at night! This bird arrived on the paddle, flying north in the moonlight. Like any migration, it is flying towards hope.

The stone is one I picked up, as one does, on a canoe trip....a totem of memories and beauty and gratitude and hope.

(photo credit: Max Finkelstein)

A paddle for Jacintha and Fred in the YK.

A paddle for Jacintha and Fred in the YK.

Wishing them a wonderful life together.

A happy anniversary to Sue and David

Waterlilies are food for the soul!
Perfect, white, wax-like, quietly floating on dark water.

This is a detail of a design that I came to call 'Patience' (per the requirement of patience to woodburn the dark water on the entire paddle.)

A happy anniversary to Sue and David!!!


Those fortunate to paddle a northern river are touched by the grandeur of the mountains, forests and glacial fed waterways.

Hikes provide memorable vistas with canoes and camp sites minuscule in the distance like this view inspired by a scene reminiscent of the beautiful Athabasca River!

This is an engagement paddle (instead of a ring). What a wonderful idea!
(Personally, I find wood more exquisite than gems and jewelry.)

Canoe Paddle Art, Tree

I am a child of the Canadian Shield, with memories steeped in images of rocks and pine trees along the waters edge. This is 'home' to me.

On canoe trips, Dad would tell me to look down the lake for the furthest point of land that I could see. That was our goal. Eyes focused on that distant point, I would lose myself in the trance of paddling. That point stayed far off for a long time. But each stroke brought us closer until the goal was attained. After a brief pause, Dad would say "Look down the lake…..see that point way up
ahead? That's where we're going."

The stuff of life…. and canoe trips.

Canoe Paddle Art, Bill Mason Award   Canoe Paddle Art

Commissioned in 2001 for the prestigious Bill Mason Award, this paddle was presented posthumously to Pierre Elliot Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada.

Scenes from the fabled Nahanni River flow along the paddle shaft and blade. The Nahanni, a designated World Heritage Site, and Canadian Heritage River, was a favourite of both Mason and Trudeau.

Canoe Paddle Art, Bill Mason Award

2007 Heritage Rivers Conference, Bill Mason Award presented to Hap Wilson.

It was quite daunting to do a design for Hap – a formidable artist. So, I wanted to do a design that was very different from his beautiful realistic renditions of nature along canoe routes.

This design was inspired by stunning traditional aboriginal bead and porcupine quill work. I so admire the flowing lines of flowers and the symmetry.


Canoe Paddle Art  Canoe Paddle Art

Another recipient of the Canadian Rivers Conference: Bill Mason Award: Grandfather William Commanda is a marvelous man, besides being a
famous birchbark canoe builder and environmentalist, Grandfather is promoting peace amongst all peoples. This design is inspired by
petroglyphs and pictographs of canoes and animals honouring the great heritage of rock artists through the millenium and Grandfather's dream of rivers flowing free to the sea again.





Canoe Paddle Art

When Darren's dad turned 75, the whole family requested this design to represent a cabin he had built in the wilderness. A very special spot for fishing and family gatherings. Everyone's name had to be on the paddle

Canoe Paddle Art

Whats a canoe trip without dragonflies!

Canoe Paddle Art

Mike has traveled everywhere!
This paddle design celebrates  his memories of being in the midst of a caribou migration up north with thousands of caribou passing him. It must have been amazing!

Canoe Paddle Art, The Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is so often seen from the vantage point of a canoe. It is a favourite bird of many who travel slowly along rivers edges. Someone says "shhhhh….a heron."

Paddles stop. Bodies quiet. Eyes intent.

In momentum, the canoe inevitably gets too close and this elegant creature stretches neck and wings and swoops away around the bend.

Canoe Paddle Art, Firebird


Commissioned by a canoeist from Toronto, this design was a concept that appeared in daydreams and sketches.

For the most part, I prefer wood burning however, this flamboyant design demanded colour!

Canoe Paddle Art Canoe Paddle Art
Canoe Paddle Art

Maple leaves...glowing in autumn. All kinds of colours. This paddle is from a memory of being surrounded by blazing red and orange leaves, floating down the air currents.

Canoe Paddle Art, Goodbye and Thank You   Canoe Paddle Art, Goodbye and Thank You

A close-knit group in Manitoba requested a special 'goodbye and thank you" paddle for a fellow staff member who was moving on to the next phase in her career.

A pine tree graced one side and their logo, the other.

Inspirational poetry reflected the positive and thoughtful character of the paddle recipient.

Canoe Paddle Art, Judys Paddle   Canoe Paddle Art, Judys Paddle

My friend Judy is an amazing (!) artist and crafts woman. She spins, weaves, knits, makes birch bark canoes, tans hides….. and does gorgeous beadwork on her handmade moccasins and mukluks. Take a look at her work:

To honour her beadwork and aboriginal designs – this design is inspired by a Naskapi painted coat (Northern Quebec) .


Photo credit:
Judy Kavanagh

Canoe Paddle Art, Wild Iris   Canoe Deck Art, Wild Iris On Deck

This paddle was made for my friend Ken in Winnipeg who loves blue flags (wild iris).

Ken spent 7 years building his beautiful cedar and canvas canoe!

I was delighted to paint an iris on the deck to match the paddle…or does the paddle match the deck?

Canoe Deck Art, Kens Paddle   Canoe Deck Art, Kens Deck

My friend Ken built a special canoe for the love of his life. Beautiful canoe…..nice job Ken!

His request – maple leaves on the deck to match the maple leaves on the paddle.



Photo credit:
Ken Schykulski

Kayak Deck Art, Daki Menan

My friend Jay Morrison paddled Alexander MacKenzie’s route - paddling across Canada.
8,000 kms -

He built his own boat.
Named Daki Menan (meaning ‘Our Land’), this canoe is one tough boat!!!

Jay requested a design with specific animals to have their spirits accompany him on his voyage.
Here’s his canoe, pre-trip, on his living room floor.


Photo credit:
Jay Morrison

Canoeing in CanadaCanoe Paddle Art

It is fun when requests come with very convoluted requests!

In this case – this paddle is for a chap in Ireland who is dreaming of canoeing in Canada. Hence…the dream catcher and various animals that can be seen on a canoe trip here.

I was given a long list of animals to include in the design!


Canoe Paddle Art, Michaels Paddle

One fine winter day.. Michael was out snowshoeing up in the Gatineau hills. when a great grey owl followed him for a long time along his
route around the lake.

The moment, like Michael, had magic in it.

Canoe Paddle Art, Eustache Lake

This design is a memory of beautiful Eustache Lake in Algonquin Park.

You can only get there by a very long portage.

I visited this lovely lake in winter. There are soaring pink granite cliffs with pines trees and cedars clinging to the precipices, leaning out into space.

A beautiful place - worth the effort to visit.

Canoe Paddle Art, Charles Paddle   Canoe Paddle Art, Charles Paddle

This paddle was a retirement gift for Charles, a biologist who worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service for many years. His colleagues wanted to represent his long and prolific career.

The design was to show species he had studied as well as his contributions to numerous projects, committees and publications. Along with a very tight deadline, they supplied me with pictures, logo's, manuscripts, books, web sites and a postage stamp - all fruits of his labour.

This was a lot of fun to work on and Charles was delighted!

Canoe Paddle Art, Aurelie et elise moon

These paddles were made especially for my partner's grandchildren – obviously they are budding canoeists.


Photo credit:
Marjo B

Canoe Paddle Art, Edwidge Paddle

My friend Edwidge works for Archives of Canada. She made great use of her workplace to research ideas for her own special paddle!

Many books and discussions later - we developed this concept based on a design from Indonesia.

Canoe Paddle Art, Celtic

Kendra L. loves celtic designs.

I designed a never-ending knot and put a compass rose in the middle. The result is a very elegant paddle. The design shows up beautifully on the cherry wood.

Canoe Paddle Art, Marianne's Paddle

Marianne's father commissioned this paddle in honour of her graduation. In reviewing my reference books she found that pictographs and petroglyphs from the southwest 'spoke' to her. Marianne did some initial sketches and the design evolved to represent her upcoming canoe journey across Canada. The design winds around the shaft and blade to provide visual surprises as the paddle is turned. The spirals are said to mean 'migration'. The other 'glyphs' are animals, tracks, personal qualities, weather, phases of the moon, camp fire circles, etc - reminiscent of events on a canoe voyage.

Photo credit
Judy Kavanagh

Canoe Paddle Art, Petroglyph Paddles

A family who have canoed and camped near amazing petroglyph sites in Ontario, chose these gorgeous memories as the theme for a wedding present.


Photo credit
P. Uhlig

Canoe Paddle Art, Elliots Paddle

Yup – the paddles are for using….. even (especially?) when the snow is falling!

Paddle recipient, Elliot and his wife love paddling from ice out to ice 'in'.

Photo credit
Elliot R.

Doug Bs kayak deck

Doug B of Ottawa brought me a 20 foot kayak deck to embellish with creatures from the sea. This was fun - a pyrographer's dream canvas! Narwhales, whales, walrus, seals, belugas and porpoises swim from bow to stern. Thanks to my biologist friends for the loan of reference books on these wonderful animals. Doug has recently launched his beautiful craft.

WKA President Bobby Kennedy

Cool! I provided a paddle for Canadian River Keeper Conference – presented to special guest, canoeist and environmentalist - Bobby Kennedy Junior.

(I'm behind the podium)

Canoe Paddle Art,, Waterway Creatures

A special birthday present for a daughter was called for...a design with creatures that inhabit waterways

The other request was for simplicity and strength of lines.

Canoe Paddle Art, Parks Canada Paddle   Canoe Paddle Art, Parks Canada Paddle

A retirement gift for a director of Parks Canada, to celebrate many years of service!

Canoe Paddle Art, Passamaquoddy design circa 1850

This design is inspired by a paddle housed in the McCord Museum in Montreal (Passamaquoddy design circa 1850 ).

Canoe Paddle Art, Water Lily

Sometimes, designs just beg to be painted. I adore water lilies…. beautiful waxy white on tea-black water with red stems twirling downwards.

Canoe Paddle Art, Wildflower Paddle

A 50th birthday present for a botanist!


Canoe Paddle Art, Tim Laugheeds Paddle

Tim Laugheed's Paddle

Photo credit
Tim Laugheed


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