Robert Chaplin


viaimprint V.I.A. Imprint is an ongoing feature concerning book and magazine publishers, book stores, and all things print in this city of ours.

Robert Chaplin is an artist, sculptor, publisher, poet and all around inspiring guy. The art and books he has created have a great sense of literacy and humor at the same time. His life has been spent in Vancouver for the past 16 years but, was “born under a lucky star, and raised in the Canadian wilderness“. With the knowledge to quickskin a grouse and feed pancakes to Whisky Jacks, Robert is constantly a fountain of knowledge and energy.

Robert was at A Word On The Street reading to adults and children alike.

The Matchbook is very readable and functional as well. The matches work.

When did you first start publishing?

I published ‘the Matchbook – a fireside fable‘ in 2001
in 2005 I started to publish the ‘Library Editions‘ series.

Not just signing a book, but doing an custom illustration.

How do you go about distributing them?
Wholesale to better stores, retail to libraries; and to people I meet, directly out of my backpack.
Who can resist a signed first edition hardcover?


You have books that are geared towards children, what was your motivation to create them?
My books are for children and adults of all ages. At some point I learned how to write, they taught me to make letters in grade one.
Since I can also draw and understand graphic design, it seemed appropriate to combine this into book form. Although my books are written at an elementary reading level, some of the ideas and humor appeal to the older set.

Where do you gather inspiration?
Inspiration comes from many sources, the world, my people… most importantly, my understanding comes from my father, Charles Murray Chaplin.

Minushka – isbn 1-894897-21-8

Some of your sculptural pieces have ISBN number, are they considered books?
If it conveys written information and has an international standard book number, then it is a book.
That which we commonly call a book, ie a collection of pages hinge bound on one side and contained within board covers, is most correctly called a codex. The codex is a Roman invention and completely replaced the scroll, as the book publishing standard, sometime in the 3rd century BC.

The world’s smallest book.

Teeny Ted From Turnip Town is pretty small, is it the smallest book in the world?
Yes, although it’s not been recognized by Guinness because it’s too small for pages and covers.

What has been your favorite project in the past year?
Publishing ‘Brussels Sprouts and Unicorns-library edition
culminating with my book launch at Walrus.

A book review scrimshaw.

How does living and working in Vancouver make a difference / indifference to what you create?

This city has a great carving culture, so that influence is beautiful.
As for the rest; my people, friends, colleagues, and patrons, are excellent.
Jim Ramsay is making the worlds first ‘Led Sled Electric’  its an actual 1949 Mercury Monarch with an electric engine.

Where else but in Vancouver would such an awesome creation emerge.

Parking Spot in Gastown  provides an opportunity for an individual artist to work, and share their Ideas for a whole year. it currently is running the Makeshift project

What other city can boast this kind of fantastic independence for artists.

Robert’s proposal for new man/woman hole cover in Vancouver.

Have you received Canada Council grants?
I’m proud to say I got one once. Filing an application for one of those things is an art project in its own right.
So I felt validated  for having no spelling mistakes, and for labeling all my slides correctly. I’ve not applied since,
although I appreciate the option.

The Sun Yat Sen Garden.

What are a couple things you like about Vancouver?
The absence of snow, the abundance of water, the sunlight and cherry blossoms, chanterelles in the autumn, my friends.
Coming from rural, northern British Columbia, its the architecture I admire most. We’ve some delightful gems
The Marine Building, and the Sun Tower with all of those caryatid columns, and the Royal Bank 685 W. Hastings
for obvious reasons. I like Sun Yat Sen Garden, it’s an oasis.

The Slyvia Hotel. Image from See Vancouver Heritage.

Do you have a favorite place to come up with more ideas (coffee shop, etc)?
Mystic Beach… it’s not exactly a secret, but neither is it on on any map. If you are a carver, you might know where it is.
Below the high tide line, sometimes it’s nowhere at all. The light is excellent there and if one is working
with focus, the ideas flow through the sound of the waves. And when you’ve finished for the day, you can pop up to the
Sylvia Hotel for a beer.

Inside RBC’s vault.

You store some of your work in a bank’s vault, how did that come about?
The reality of the situation is often pretty banal, insurance premiums are too high to contend with. Rather than risk
losing work made from valuable materials, it seemed reasonable to keep them in a fire, flood, and theft proof location.
I shopped around, and found RBC 685 Hastings, really the choice was obvious, it’s a lovely building.
A renaissance interior and an antique elevator ride to the vault. Three floors down, a place to look at art, an underworld
mystery tour, what more could one ask for?

Robert has his art stored safely.

The bank vault door.

Private rooms to count your dubloons.

The vault’s lobby has some chairs for the wait.

The elevator is run manually by an attendant.

What do you miss most when not in Vancouver?
I miss the smell of the Pacific ocean,
I miss the even light of a grey sky and the way it makes colors look so crisp.
I miss fresh fish, I miss the rain.

What is your favorite bookstore in Vancouver?
Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks
Barbara-Jo is truly an inspirational person.

F-ing Awesome Artist!

The Double Dingle Jingle Plunger.

Anything else you want to say about Vancouver’s Awesomeness?
Vancouver is awesome, you can ride a bike pretty much year round, the beauty of nature abounds. you can smell cedar in Stanley Park and there’s moss on the ground. There’s great restaurants, my current favorite is Pied A Terre on Cambie, For obvious reasons, the food is excellent! Also, our public art gallery, has a really terrific collection of dutch still life painting. One last thing, a wee bit of whimsy; The founder of Vancouver, Captain Vancouver, sounds like  a superhero.

The wax Captain Vancouver from Webshots.

Thanks Robert for letting us see some of your art at the bank. It was Awesome!
Robert has more art, sculpture and other great stuff on his sites.
Robert Chaplin RCA BFA
Robert’s Blog