Pandemic unleashes Grace's creative streak

Eighty-eight-year-old Grace Guevin cannot stop creating while in isolation amid COVID-19

Some people watch. Some read. Some listen. Some rest. Some drink. Some write.

Eighty-eight-year-old Grace Guevin simply gets to work.

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Like tens of thousands of people in Kamloops, the Cottonwood Manor resident is stuck at home during the pandemic and has used the time to create with her hands and devise with her mind.

Consider her most colourful creations, cardboard chapeaus that would look right at home in Prairie football stadiums.

Guevin’s beer box hats are a labour of love, consisting of the cardboard boxes — “The brighter, the better,” she said, with empty 24-packs a preference — yarn and her trusty collection of tools.

She began to craft the hats after seeing perfectly good beer boxes sitting in the recycling bin at her North Kamloops complex.

“I brought them home and thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way to use them,’”Guevin said.

So, she grabbed her hand tools, her hammer, her scissors, her yarn and began assessing the cardboard vessel that once held 24 full bottles of Budweiser beer.

Then she got to work.

“By daylight, I had a hat,” she said of that hours-and-hours-long first attempt at millinery.

“I was up to my knees in cardboard pieces. My place was a mess — but I had a hat!”

Since then, she has streamlined the process and can create one of her beer box hats within a couple of hours.

Beer box hat Grace Guevin
Grace Geuvin sits on her patio at Cottonwood Manor, surrounded by some of her creations. - Dave Eagles/KTW

Today, her work can be found on noggins and in homes around the world, as a result of her goodwill ambassador trips — pre-pandemic — across the North Shore on her trusty scooter.

Beer box hats on board, Guevin would wheel around the neighbourhood, handing out the hats to tourists and anybody else interested in her handiwork.

By Guevin’s estimate, her brewery buckets have left Kamloops with visitors returning home to Japan, New Zealand, Washington state, Arizona and Toronto, among other locales.

“I had one lady flash me a $20 because she didn’t know what to buy her husband for his birthday,” Guevin said with a laugh.

Lately, she has been working with Budweiser boxes. They seem to be popular in her neighbourhood and they have a good colour palette.

But mark Guevin as a Kokanee gal when she does imbibe, which is not often.

“I’m not a drinker at all,” she said. “Once in a while, on a hot day, I’ll have a cold beer with my super son,” Guevin said, referring to 62-year-old Bill, who visits when he can from his home in Langley.

Her other son, Dennis, is now 60 and suited up for the B.C. Lions, winning a Grey Cup in 1985, which explains Guevin’s affinity for the team that Annis Stukus built.

She once sent a Kokanee beer box hat to the company’s headquarters in Creston and received, as gratitude, a 24-can backpack, two T-shirts and three keychains.

But her pandemic perceptions go well beyond crafting beer box hats.

“I’m working on songs about the virus,” she said, noting she has completed three ditties so far, original words set to existing melodies — including the Carter Family’s Keep on the Sunny Side — strung together with her guitar.

“Oh, I’m making a racket all of the time and my neighbours can hardly stand it,” she quipped.

Last week, an invention: “Well, my kids told me, ‘You don’t be climbing the chairs to do the high things.’ And, my ceiling fans, man, they were so — well, I was ashamed to look up,” she said.

So, Guevin got her hands on a discarded 59-inch plastic pipe that is 4.5 inches in diameter (her precise measurements).

With tools, including her drill, wire hangers and a facecloth, she created a dusting mechanism that can clean the highest parts of her home from the comfort of the floor. She can even rinse it out and use it again.

It’s safe to say the pandemic has unleashed her creative juices.

“Absolutely,” Guevin said. “I can’t sleep. I think I slept an hour-and-a-half last night. And I was up in the night writing and composing. I just can’t keep up. I’m having so many ideas.”

Perhaps, amid her brainstorming barnstorming, the octogenarian will come up with an idea for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Well, I’m looking!” she said with a thundering laugh.

© Kamloops This Week


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