Dominion Sculptor Phil White receives Diamond Jubilee Medal

July 2012

Dominion Sculptor, Phil White, carving in his workshop.

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, courtesy of the website of the Governor General of Canada.

It's not every day that an employee is taken aside by the Canadian Secretary to the Queen and presented with a prestigious award, but that's exactly what happened to Dominion Sculptor Phil White on June 27, when he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

The Diamond Jubilee Medal marks the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the throne and serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

Sixty thousand deserving Canadians will be presented with a Diamond Jubilee Medal this year.

Phil—who, as Dominion Sculptor, oversees the carving program on Parliament Hill—received a phone call from Kevin MacLeod, the Usher of the Black Rod of the Senate of Canada, an adviser on protocol and organizer of events such as the opening of Parliament and the reading of the Speech from the Throne.

He asked me if I could come in to chat about something, so I went to his chambers in the Senate, dressed in my grubby work clothes, and then he sprang it on me, completely by surprise,” says Phil of the moment he received the medal.

Phil White helps Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II unveil a plaster model of a stone portrait in her likeness at Rideau Hall on June 30, 2010.
A carving of the Senate Mace done in basswood and finished in gold leaf.

We chatted for a bit afterwards and had some tea, and then I went on my way.

This wasn't Phil's first brush with the monarchy: When the Queen visited Ottawa for Canada Day celebrations in 2010 he had the chance to present a plaster model of a sculpture in her likeness. “She asked a few questions about it, where it would be displayed, and what material it was carved from,” says Phil.

The finished product, which took three months to carve, is now on display in the foyer of the Senate.

Diamond Jubilee celebrations have kept Phil busy; for about three months, he was working ten hours a day, seven days a week. Some of his recent projects include the installation of stained-glass windows in the Senate, a wooden carving of the ceremonial Senate mace and a portrait bust of the Queen that now sits in the Library of Parliament.

A bust of HM Queen Elizabeth II created by Phil White that is on display in the Library of Parliament.

Phil grew up in an artistic family, where he was introduced to carving by his grandfather, a master mason and woodcarver. It was while touring the government's carving workshops as a student in 1985 that he first learned of the post of Dominion Sculptor. After studying art conservation techniques at Ontario's Sir Sandford Fleming College, Phil went on to a career in conservation and collection management at the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. He was appointed Canada's fifth Dominion Sculptor in 2006.

Canada's Dominion Sculptor is responsible for carving statues, portraits and decorative pieces to commemorate Canada's history, people, events, and character in Parliament Hill's Centre Block and other government buildings.

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