If you live in Saskatoon, you’ve seen them: beautiful pairs of wings set up all over town, quietly but powerfully calling you to be lifted, if only for a photo. I’ve posed with them. You’ve probably posed with them. My kids can’t resist posing with them. But haven’t you wondered where the Wings of YXE come from? I was dying to know who their maker was, why they were being made, and to learn more about how their story took flight.
I reached out on Instagram to @wingsofyxe and was delighted to be invited over to the workshop of the wings, and to meet their creator (who no surprise turned out to have the best energy ever, what a pleasure this was), Loch Willy.
After gushing about how much my kids loved the wings and the joy I, too, get from spotting a pair around time, I had to ask Loch: why? But it turned out I’d already answered that. “They’re for people to enjoy,” he smiled, recounting that a few days after dropping his first pair off at Harley Davidson in March, a friend stopped to get a picture with them and passed it along to him. “I thought okay, that’s it, I’ve got one person who loved them. She’s happy, that’s good, they serve their purpose.”
As for the why of wings, Loch started his woodworking with picture frames, then shelves, then a bench for his daughter’s dance studio. But then, he was inspired by a YouTube video of all of these wings painted in L.A. alleys and on walls. He just loved the way they invited people into art and wanted to see it happen in Saskatoon with the caveat of making the wings for everyone. “I read about one set of wings there where only people with a certain number of followers could take pictures,” he told me, “And to me, that’s not how art works. I wanted to pick places where everyone can see and access them. I thought, let’s just put this out there and if one person likes it, I’ll be happy.”
But of course, they’ve taken off.
All you have to do is search the #wingsofyxe hashtag that’s painted on the beam of every set of wings to know that Saskatoon is enamored. Right now, you’ll see folks standing happily in front of sets at The Farmer’s Market, Jerry’s Food Emporium, City Perks Coffee, Bill’s House of Flowers, The Berry Barn, and City Hall but they’re on the move next week so, you’ll have to scavenger-hunt em pretty soon (follow @wingsofyxe for hints). He has a few friends he calls his “committee”, all of whom are moms, and they suggest where wings could go. Although now, businesses reach out to him as well.
I wondered if Loch’s work is commissioned. As of right now, it’s a passion project, totally self-financed although friends have been dropping off materials at a pretty good clip. Holding up a bag of pinecones he says, “These will be coasters.” The man’s got vision.
He does sell little handcrafted wings because people were asking, some of whom had lost a loved one and connected with the Wings of YXE in a spiritual way. An untreated pair is twenty dollars. (Me: “That’s a lot of work! You could charge a lot more!” Loch: “I know, but I want anyone to be able to have them.”)
One thread in Loch’s story that he cherishes is that so many of the people shaping the future of the Wings are strong women. Beyond the committee, with every location that invites him, it’s always a lady who gets in touch. “As a single dad to my daughter, having these women entrepreneurs reach out has been great for her to see.” And Kiara, 13, appreciates what the Wings are bringing to the community as much as Loch does. “She and her friends follow it on Instagram and we both smile every time someone uses the hashtag,” he tells me.
I left that workshop in a great mood and beamed all the way home. If you’re not already, I hope you’ll head on over to @wingsofyxe and give a follow, not just to support Loch’s project, but also to add some genuine positivity to your feed.