Jeff De Boer’s prowess with metal should come as no surprise. The son of a tinsmith, Jeff’s early artistic talent and access to metalworking tools led him to build a suit of armor in high school with the intention of wearing it to graduation.

Today, the Calgary-based artist is best known for a series of cat and mouse armor he began in college nearly 30 years ago and has continued to expand and refine.

“We need someone taking care of the little guy in a dangerous world,” says Jeff. “I feel that’s part of what the mouse armor represents.”

After enrolling in the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1984, he reluctantly majored in Jewelry Design as an avenue for indulging his love of metalwork. Later he realized that his newly acquired fine jewelry techniques could be used for fabricating armor at a miniature scale. Still, he was hesitant to make doll-sized human armor.

“In order to bring authenticity to the work, I had to build something that was real. So why not a real suit of armor for a small animal?”

Each suit of armor is unique, hand-built with a custom set of tools made for each work. To achieve the polished metal gleam befitting a knight, an extraordinary amount of time goes into finishing.

“For every hour I spend making something, I spend an equal hour on the finishing. It’s like a science — the choice of abrasives, the polishes. The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of finishing takes years to master.”

“Finishing is also sometimes a bit of sleight-of-hand. You can’t make a perfect thing, but you can trick people into believing it is.”