Tofino illustrator and artist Claire Watson designed a pure silver coin for the Royal Canadian Mint to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
The special edition coin, says Watson, was a venture outside her creative comfort zone, which ultimately led to one of her greatest accomplishments to date.
“I remember getting really excited five years ago when I won the Whale Festival poster. This coin is a bit of an interesting step up,” Watson told the Tofino Westerly News from her floating home, a wooden sailboat called ‘Razmur’.
Last winter, a creative director from the Royal Canadian Mint reached out to Watson to see if she would like to be added to their pool of artists.
“Then, two months later, I got another call asking if I wanted to participate in the contest to submit designs for the Saint Lawrence Seaway,” Watson recalls. “To do the [initial] sketch was pretty simple. I did everything on my iPad with Procreate and a pen. I submitted my design and got a call a few days later saying that I had won it.”
Apparently, notes Watson, it is rare for a first-time contender to be selected.
“I was quite blown away that I won it,” she said.
Located on the east coast of Canada, the Saint Lawrence Seaway is a series of locks, canals, and channels that connects Canadian and American vessels to the Atlantic Ocean. The Seaway opened in 1959 and was hailed one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century.
“The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a vital waterway, serving as a key part of the North American logistics chain and as an important gateway for trade with over 50 nations across the globe,” wrote Terence Bowles, President and CEO of The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.
Watson’s design provides a water-level view of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, where a ship moves through one of 15 lock systems. A split maple leaf and star symbolizes the Seaway as a partnership between Canada and the United States and the anchor is a special tribute to all who oversee the safe and efficient passage of marine traffic through our waters.
“The Montreal skyline is tucked in there really small. Originally, my design had more landscape in the background, but then I changed it more. It’s amazing how much detail they got in there,” said Watson, who is known for being the Tofino Time magazine’s illustrator queen of the colouring page.
Titled ‘60 years of Prominence: The St. Lawrence Seaway’, the collector’s edition coin can be purchased on mint.ca for $219.95. At the time this article went to press, Watson’s first silver coin was 81 per cent sold out of its 2,000 mintage.
“What do I do from here?” Watson ponders. “I have no idea what the next step is.”