The fairy godmother of Nelson theatre

Long-time volunteer Jane Merks has been indispensable to local Capitol productions.

Jane Merks has long volunteered in the Nelson theatre scene and plans to stay in the Kootenays.

To those who know her, she’s the fairy godmother of Nelson theatre.

Retired graphic designer Jane Merks doesn’t have any real official capacity at the Capitol she doesn’t want one but likes to swoop in and take care of idiosyncratic requests.

So, when the Star swung by the theatre’s costume dungeon last week to inform her she would be the latest volunteer recognized in our Above and Beyond series, she was constructing a pair of black leather wings for the upcoming musical Rock of Ages.

“I get a lot of strange requests,” Merks said, noting they primarily come from Capitol designer Kyla Hurst. “I’ve been sewing since I was 10, so I’ve been at it for 50-odd years, and I’m a graphic designer. I can come in and make just about anything.”

Merks came to town as a graphic design professor 15 years ago, and continued to do design work locally. Last year she made a decision: “I didn’t want to work for money anymore.

“Instead I work totally for fun. If I don’t like it, I don’t do it.”

That means she recently designed a book for poet Margaret Hornby just because she felt like it. And she’s been creating costumes for the Capitol’s Christmas pantomime for the past four years.

She’s helped conjure a number of fun characters onstage including Humpty Dumpty, Puss in Boots and Stacee Jaxx. She was also called in to complete 12 avian-themed costumes for Jorinda.

“Coming up with unusual, innovative stuff is kind of my thing,” she said. Another example would be the latex semi-permanent tattoos she’s offered people at the annual Womaginarium fundraiser.

She’s also become involved with Learning in Retirement.

“I’m always part of a team. I no longer want to be in charge of anything. I’ve been there, done that.”

Merks now is devoting a lot of time to her own mixed media projects. A few years ago she dressed all the Lakeside Park trees in corsets, a move that put her in the parks department’s bad books.

“When you do guerrilla art sometimes you lose what you’ve made,” she said, with a shrug. When asked if she’s thinking about doing any more guerrilla art, she laughed: “I wouldn’t tell you if I was!”

Currently Merks has been crocheting circles, and so far has produced 4,000. She’s coy about what she ultimately plans to do with them, though she recently hung them up on Vernon St. to take pictures and then promptly took them back down again.

“They may show up again,” she said.

On Merks’ Facebook page, she lists Nelson as her hometown.

“This is my spiritual home. I’ve lived in 32 places in my life, throughout the United States and Canada. And when I moved here with my husband Peter Bartl, we knew we were home, simple as that.”

 

Just Posted

New Nelson councillors reassure voters: living outside city not a problem

Nelson’s new council has only two women and one incumbent

VIDEO: Nelson’s Mia Noblet sets new world record in highline

Noblet now owns the women’s and men’s record

Nelson Curling Club’s refrigeration plant in need of repairs

The club wants the RDCK to take over the plant’s operations

Salmo woman in need of third liver transplant

An event Saturday raised $1,500 for Shelby Gielen

RDCK approves loan request to remediate Salmo tailings site

The H.B. Mine tailings pond poses a risk of toxic contamination

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. veteran combats PTSD in the ring and on the farm

Cam Tetrault is a valuable contributor at Quesnel’s Two Rivers Boxing Club

B.C. vegan butcher to appear on Dragons’ Den

Victoria’s Very Good Butchers will star in Nov. 29 episode

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

Most Read