Base Camp X: Bridging the Gap Between Utility and Art

“The mountains are the perfect place for a tribe mentality,” says Graeme Cameron, creator of Base Camp X. “You are a bit caged-in geographically, so you are bumping elbows and rubbing shoulders with each other in an environment that is as big and broad as can be. There are no real rules or restrictions, but you gotta know what you are doing. The mountains create a shared dream of chasing goals and living life, instead of just existing.”

 

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Bryn Hughes Photo

By Feet Banks

Base Camp X (BCX) is an all-Canadian lifestyle brand best known for their handcrafted axes. Graeme built the company on a philosophy of functionality, community and legacy — “This is not your grandfather’s axe,” Graeme’s motto explains. “It’s your grandson’s.”

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The axe is an interesting tool, ubiquitous to both survival and exploration since the dawn of civilized man. Times have changed. “These days, an axe isn’t an everyday-use product for most of people,” Graeme explains, adding that for many people, the only time they touch an axe is out at a family cabin, or camping at some secluded place. “So when you see an axe hanging on a wall, it’s no longer just some tool — it may be a portal to somewhere special.”

Lately, the BCX products themselves seem to have found a portal to the Coast Mountains. The brand, based in Ontario, has a sponsored ski team that includes BC-local rippers like Josh Bibby, Riley Leboe, Rory Bushfield and most recently, Alberta skier Tatum Monod, the team’s first female member.

 

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Dan Treadway. Bryn Hughes Photo

 

“Graeme is a die-hard skier,” Leboe says. “I think he was stoked on what we were doing out here and wanted some guys to be ambassadors and part of the tribe. He lives and breaths his art and craftsmanship and he’s always talking about new inspirations — people, music, nature, films — that are influencing his designs.”

Those designs are finding a home across a wide selection of the Sea to Sky big mountain tribe. Dan Treadway, Blake Jorgenson and artist Chili Thom are also fans. “I keep most of my BCX tools in the tool box in the back of my truck and I’m ready to make something happen any time,” says BCX skier, Josh Bibby. “My favourite piece is the Airborne (throwing axe). Each tool has its purpose and functions perfectly for its task.”

 

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Bryn Hughes Photo

On down days, Bibby says that he, Leboe and Bushfield will often get together to throw their various BCX pieces in friendly competitions. There seems to be plenty of controversy over who “wins,” with both Bushy and Bibby claiming a recent victory.

“My Tomahawk makes beating Josh Bibby as easy as a midnight walk to the fridge for some Pizza Pops,” Bushfield claims.

“Bushfield lost that last game,” Bibby counters. It’s all in good fun of course, but having people come together over his work is part of Graeme’s master plan. “To me, the most important thing is involvement,” he says. “Everyone who owns a product is part of the BCX tribe.”

The BCX Tribe is diverse and large. Everyone from tattoo artists and Hollywood filmmakers, to members of the military and models, passionately shares photos of their BCX stuff on Instagram. Graeme loves the photo sharing app and uses it to engage his tribe. “I’ll post a photo of something I am working on and ask questions,” he explains. “I want to hear what people say, or I will ask their thoughts on colours I am obsessing over. I enjoy these visual conversations with people.”

Graeme’s passion for Base Camp X is most apparent in the pieces themselves. He meticulously sands and colours each axe handle by hand, mixing the dyes with water from his own Base Camp, a cabin he built by hand (with an axe) on a piece of Canadian Shield lakefront his great grandfather claimed and prospected in 1915.

 

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Graeme Cameron

 

“I have several blacksmiths working on BCX product,” he says. “We just bought an antique Nazel power hammer that was built in the 1930s. It looks like a big microscope except it can drop a hammer with unreal force or do the most delicate work ever. Pat Quinn (a blacksmith, not the hockey coach) is a super talented guy and he is working with me on some simply unreal pieces, he can make that hammer do amazing things.”

The curved, heavy blades of BCX Khukri knives are made in the country of the tool’s origin, Nepal. “I have a fourteen-generation-deep Kami blacksmith in Nepal, hand forging the steel in a classic forge called The Aran . . . traditional Kami will pray to it every morning,” Graeme explains. These sorts of details are incredibly important to him because BCX products are much more than simple tools.

“These days, an axe isn’t an everyday-use product for most of people,” Graeme explains. “So when you see an axe hanging on a wall, it’s no longer just some tool — it may be a portal to somewhere special.”

“We have a product that engages,” he explains. “When you show off your BCX piece, people will ask questions, ‘What’s the story with that?’ It’s like art, in a way.”

Base Camp X “artworks” are fully functional and will last for generations, but they’re also unique pieces of made-in-Canada badassery that evoke the magic of our nation’s wild landscape and the people who come together within it.

“I think that is a lot of it,” Graeme says. “The romance of it all is the idea of open country and mountains, rivers, forests and oceans — all these organic places with texture and beauty that just flow. I think that is why so many of my pieces end up in the Coast Mountains, it’s all right there.”

 

 

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