Tetz returns to his passion — artificial rocks

The lure of oilpatch money pulled him away for a few years, but Dale Tetz has returned to his passion — rocks.

Dale Tetz poses with one of his creations: an old wagon wheel fused into an eroded rock slab.

Dale Tetz poses with one of his creations: an old wagon wheel fused into an eroded rock slab.

The lure of oilpatch money pulled him away for a few years, but Dale Tetz has returned to his passion — rocks.

Artificial rocks, to be exact.

The owner-operator of Rock Creations By Dale is crafting everything from boulder gate entries to cliffs and caves in his Trochu garage. Last week, he was cruising the streets of Red Deer with one of his pieces — an old wagon wheel fused into an eroded rock slab — mounted in the back of his pickup.

“A picture doesn’t look as good as the actual thing,” explained Tetz.

His process involves building a frame with rebar and wire mesh, and then applying concrete. Hours are then spent carving and colouring to create a realistic finish.

“My reward is the carving part,” he said. “That’s the fun part.”

Tetz started fabricating rocks in 2003 as part of his landscaping business. Real rocks were difficult and costly to obtain, he explained, particularly alternatives to sandstone — like granite and marble.

He perfected his technique and his work ended up in yards throughout Central Alberta. Then, in 2007, he was coaxed back to his former vocation as a gas well and compressor operator.

“They gave me an arm and a leg to go back to the oilfield.”

Three years later, and with the energy sector contracting, Tetz resumed his creative career — this time focusing only on rocks.

“This is where my heart is at.”

With customers from north of Edmonton to south of Calgary, Tetz’s creations have been diverse. One of his most notable is a cliff built into the interior of a house west of Olds, with a mounted fox its centrepiece.

Septic tank covers are in high demand, he noted, since the moulded alternatives on the market look fake and are fragile. Tetz devotes about 16 hours to each, applying painstaking detail to the finish.

“Nobody else hand-carves,” he said.

“It’s got to look real. If it looks fake, anybody can do that.”

At 56, Tetz doubts he’ll ever return to the oilpatch. But he expects to remain in the rock-making business for many years to come.

“I call it therapy; my wife calls it playing.”

Additional information about Rock Creations By Dale can be found online at www.rockcreationsbydale.com.

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