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For 28 years, Ornamental Stonecraft has supplied Manitobans with concrete eagles, welcome bears and other creative creatures – and now, under new management, they’ll do it from a different town

Mike Labelle of Ornamental Stonecraft patches small holes left in a statue by the casting process.Photography by Shannon VanRaes/The Globe and Mail

Mike Labelle weaves through rows of concrete statuary pointing out much-loved pieces at Ornamental Stonecraft, southwest of Winnipeg.

“The gnomes are still popular,” he said. But the Manitoba mason is also quick to note that, with more than 700 ready-made and custom designs in the company’s repertoire, lawn ornaments broke the mould long ago.

“The only limit is your imagination,” he said.

Whether your lawn needs a gnome, a tiger or a bison, Ornamental Stonecraft can provide.

Memorial benches, custom painted statues of horses, goats and homages to family pets are common requests, although exotic wildlife, welcome stones and even firefighters and other emergency responders are also on offer.

Each piece is crafted through a multi-step process of mixing, pouring and curing concrete. Once an ornament is removed from the latex mould that formed it, any imperfections are then patched and smoothed. Larger pieces require carefully placed rebar supports and statues can’t be painted until fully cured – a process that can take days or even weeks.

Mr. Labelle bought Ornamental Stonecraft in January and is in the middle of relocating production to the town of Carberry, near Brandon. The Winnipeg-area showroom is set to close Aug. 14.

Rod and Barbara Schroeder founded the business 28 years ago and stayed on to assist with the transition, but will officially retire this month.

Leaving behind the business generates mixed emotions for Mr. Schroeder, who says he’ll miss coming into work every day. But neither he nor his wife plan on bringing any of the remaining ornaments home to their condo.

“We don’t have a lawn,” he said.

Ornamental Stonecraft was founded 28 years ago by Barbara Schroeder and her husband, Rod, who are retiring this month.
Mike Labelle peers into a mould that will be poured with concrete to make a 1,700-pound eagle. Once it is set, he removes excess concrete from the edges. The statue must be righted using a hoist before the bolts holding the latex and fibreglass shell are removed.
Gisele Labelle adds some colour to welcome bears, a popular item. Some clients order statues modelled after their horses, and give photos for reference. Before being painted, ornaments have to cure so excess moisture has time to seep out; the dog at bottom is still waiting for its coat.

The showroom's last day open is Aug. 14 before the shop moves to Carberry, Man.

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