Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

Visual Artist Ladd Fogarty’s Life of Art and Inspiration

"Muscowpetung Sage Woman" - acrylic on canvas

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A. Menninger

Our featured interview with multidisciplinary fine artist and retired art teacher Ladd Fogarty of Emerald Park, Saskatchewan reminded me of the above quotes; our discovery of Ladd’s prolific teaching career and what he meant to his students, as well as his life-long passion for the arts and, like Picasso, an appetite for exploring multiple mediums. Although Ladd has been doing his art work for over thirty years now, it hasn’t been until these last eight years that he has truly taken on marketing his work as a professional artist. During the thirty years that he spent teaching students about the arts he fostered not only their creative gifts which led to their own artistic achievements, but he also forged enduring friendships with many of them.

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What is it that makes a great teacher? When we asked Ladd he mentioned not only patience, humour and a diverse skill base, but also the ability to draw out of a person their creative abilities that they never realized was inside of them. One such student was David Benjoe, who was an art student of Ladd’s at age 17 and doubtful of his artistic abilities. Ladd would say to him, “David, please don’t sell yourself short, art is another way to achieve what you enjoy in life”. Then, through Ladd’s urging he agreed to be part of an outreach arts workshop program for the elementary schools in the area, which he loved. This was his first introduction to leading in a classroom setting. He went on to become a teacher himself and is now on the verge of attaining his Masters of fine arts interdisciplinary. David concludes, “I can honestly say that he was the major influence in the path I took after we met way back in the 1990s”.

"Protecting Purity" - birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

“Protecting Purity” – birch burl, soapstone, buffalo bone

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The diversity of Ladd’s artistic media came about from various avenues and influences. He attributes personal desire in determining whether he feels like painting at the moment or working with his hands on a 3d object, which may involve acrylic paints, clay, wood, glass or soapstone. It depends on what story he is trying to tell; it could come from the potters wheel or the painting easel. As an art teacher he also had to learn about and present a multitude of mediums for his students to experiment with. His early exposure to art included his mother who was an opera singer and musician and still plays the violin to this day (Ladd also played in a dance band for about 12-15 years until losing a finger five years ago). His grandmother was a painter and his grandfather played the piano. His father happened to be a carpenter that became a master wood-turner in his retirement and was a great teacher for Ladd.

"Parallel Worlds" - acrylic on canvas

“Parallel Worlds” – acrylic on canvas

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Within the wood and clay pieces that Ladd creates you will see striking designs of geometry, figures and symbols; the clay pieces adorned with acrylic paints adding a lustrous finish. For wood he will use accoutrements such as acrylic paints, stained glass, soapstone, buffalo bone, porcupine quills, as well as stones such as turquoise, pipestone, magnesite and jet black. With already the richness of the wood itself to catch your eye, be it maple, birch or cherry, the additional colours and design add a beautiful touch. Ladd notes that when he is working with wood or clay he uses more symbolism and has a tendency to explore more abstract concepts.

"On The Way To Puskwakau" - acrylic on canvas

“On The Way To Puskwakau” – acrylic on canvas

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To Ladd his paintings relay the inspiration he gains from his natural surroundings as well as the experiences of the people who are a part of it. Ladd has a deep connection to First Nations people and their culture and his work reflects that. One such piece is “Muscowpetung Sage Woman”; the painting featured at the top. This piece was created as a donation to a charity auction to raise money for shelters for women and children of domestic violence. It is a personal piece that shows a woman and child, his adopted First Nations daughter with her daughter, looking over her shoulder to an old woman picking sage, a symbolic gesture of acknowledging her ancestral roots. It represents part of the healing process for a difficult time that she was going through.

Turquoise on birch

Turquoise on birch

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We finished up our interview with a tour of the family home to video Ladd’s art work on display; the house itself a part of his artistic handiwork. We had the pleasure of getting to know Ladd’s wife Liz and their daughter Kaitlyn as we sat down to a lovely lunch that they prepared. A stroll through the yard and garden (where we gratefully accepted some veggies for the road) capped off a wonderful day with the Fogartys.

Enjoy our interview with Ladd and please share his interview on social media. If you are inclined to leave a nice comment for Ladd please submit it below.

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

“Renaissance Man” Artist Jeff Morris

"Kayak"

You know the type, a guy that seems to be able to do it all; fix anything, create anything, with the only limitations being that of his own imagination. Meet artist Jeff Morris of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, a man with a vast imagination and seemingly no limitations to his creativity. When we arrived at his studio and gallery a few miles north of town we thought we were interviewing Jeff Morris the artist, but what we found in addition to that was also an inventor and explorer; a Renaissance man of sorts.

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Jeff Morris has always liked to create things, starting off as a youngster with the basics of a hammer, some wood and some ideas. It seemed like a logical choice then that he go into carpentry after high school, giving him the satisfaction of building functional wood structures and earning a living. And although he enjoyed it, he wasn’t able to unleash the creativity that was brewing inside of him, so he decided to transfer his wood construction skills into his artistic side and put the fun back into functional. The result has been not only beautiful and innovative wood pieces, but also Jeff’s expansion of creativity into other mediums.

"Lava Table" - wood construction

“Lava Table” – wood construction

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When we spoke with Jeff about what drives his art he kept coming back to his thirst for learning and discovery. Always experimenting with different techniques and having no shortage of new ideas, his curiosity is endless and is reflected in the variety of media he has his hands in such as concrete, wood, photography, painting and pottery. While he was giving us a tour of his spacious studio and workshop he also pointed out other inventive projects, such as the drum set he made from used propane cylinders; see video HERE, as well as the new musical instrument he made from the inner workings of a piano. If whiskey and slide guitar are more your style then check out the whiskey tumbler and glass slide that Jeff made from a whiskey bottle; see video HERE.

"Raver" - Assiniboine clay

“Raver” – Assiniboine clay

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Jeff admits that his projects are not based on the path of least resistance principle, and he likes it that way. Rather his methods are based more on his quest to satisfy his curiosity and the inherent challenges that come with it. For instance, buying clay for pottery is not too costly, but his discovery of a clay source along the Assiniboine River while he was out kayaking led him to hand dig and haul out a lifetime supply of clay; an enormous physical task. After testing out the initial few hundred pounds of clay with a couple of local potters and then researching the correct combination of additives to make successful pots, he now uses only the Assiniboine clay for all of his pieces.

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

Collaboration piece with Fred Acoby

One of the great messages that we took away from our visit with Jeff was that creating art, or any other project, does not have to involve expensive supplies that can stop you before you begin. If a person has a creative urge just waiting to burst from within them, just a little extra work using re-purposed or scrap items or even paints from a building supply store (Jeff’s not-so-secret supply), can get anyone started. In many cases Jeff’s creativity and innovation has lent itself to just providing the materials themselves for the project before the work on the artistic piece has even begun. Although the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” may apply to finding a solution through lack of financial means, for Jeff it means a necessity for trying new, unconventional, or historical methods that stoke his curiosity and that gives him a satisfaction of having taken the road less traveled to discovery. When asked if there were other mediums that he would to like to explore Jeff mentioned glass blowing but that it is quite a pricey endeavour. We don’t doubt that one day, somehow, Jeff will find a way.

Enjoy our interview with Jeff and this glimpse into his artistic life. Feel free to share his story on social media and email, with nice comments submitted below always welcome.

Artist Debra McLeod Turns and Burns

Artist Debra McLeod Turns and Burns

We went rolling down highway 41, then 21, and then 51 heading for Ruthilda, Saskatchewan on our way to interview wood turner Debra McLeod. The roads were long and straight but reminded me of a patchwork quilt. At times, Arty was rolling and swaying and skipping along. One of the nice things about taking the road less traveled is that you may find you are one of the only vehicles taking it, and although Gary still needed to be paying attention to not drive off the road or hit any Pronghorn we were both able to enjoy the sights along the journey. Another perk is you can stop on the highway for a photo opportunity or two which we did. At one point a local fellow stopped and asked us if we were lost. He obviously doesn’t or hasn’t seen a Vanagon around his area before because if it were me I would have asked if we were broken down.

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We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in the town of Ruthilda with only a population of six people. It is quaint and tidy and filled with history. The original Ruthilda hotel was built by Pat Boone, and then in 1926 it burnt down but was later rebuilt. The town council finally passed a law in 1962 allowing women into the drinking establishment of the hotel. I could imagine from its current façade that in its glory days it was a brilliant white with red accents. In the window of the front door hangs a sign with Merry Christmas on it. I immediately wondered how many Christmases have since come and gone. It is fascinating to me to find a place like Ruthilda in the middle of nowhere. I do not mean that in the derogatory sense, it is just a place most people will never see unless they have a reason to go there, like we did.

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Deb McLeod lives on a quarter section of land with her musician husband Ian, their exuberant pooch and the cat. They built their home in that spot 6 years ago but a deep family history has its roots in the area. Deb is a journeyman carpenter by trade and so it only made sense that she did all the finishing work. By looking around their home, it is easy to see that Deb has an appreciation and the skill for fine craftsmanship. She has always had a love for wood ever since she can remember. Growing up on a farm, it was common to be building something whether it be fencing or repairing a barn. When she went to grade school she desperately wanted to take shop but because she is a female it wasn’t allowed. But Deb would get her way and made a career from creating things with wood.

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Nine years ago she asked her step-father to teach her wood turning. He showed her the basics and she has never looked back. Her shop is full of tools including a very impressive lathe with all the bells and whistles and many finished and unfinished pieces waiting for her attention. Deb loves turning wood, and each and every day she feels more excited about getting into her shop than the day before. The whole process is intriguing and exciting to her but she admits it is the decorating of her wood pieces that she really adores. The turned piece becomes her canvas, and for that reason her wood of choice is birch, a white wood with no visible grain lines. In the winter I ask Gary, “can you put another piece of birch on the fire?” whereas Deb says, “Ian I’m going to put another piece of birch on the lathe”. I can tell you that Deb’s work has made me look at birch in a whole different light. I’m not sure I can burn it anymore.

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Deb is inspired by many things and often her best creative ideas come to her in the middle of the night when she is fast asleep. These mischievous ideas wake her up from her comfy slumber and then all she ends up doing is wishing for the light of dawn so she can get her ideas out of bed and make them come to life. She never has a problem with finding ideas, and sometimes the problem is having too many. Her latest series is three rather voluptuous pieces of wood that took on the persona of sisters. Soon she was looking at pictures of evening gowns that would serve as the decorations for these lovely ladies. Who knew wood and evening gowns would go together?

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Please join us as we listen to Deb talk about her passion for the art of wood turning. Please help us spread the word about Debra McLeod and her art by sharing through social media and email. Thanks!

Jim and Eileen Jones – Working Wonders With Wood

Jim and Eileen Jones – Working Wonders With Wood

Alberta

I still remember back in April of 1985 as a young man from British Columbia traveling to Alberta for a new career and a new life. I had never been east of the Rocky Mountains and as the last glimpse of the rolling foothills disappeared in my rear view mirror I was shocked by the naked landscape opening up before me; these sweeping prairies which at the time seemed devoid of life. Having grown up in the lush greenery of the west coast I didn’t realize at the time that these austere surroundings where I would work for twenty years would reveal their own natural wonders; a wildness mixed with a spacious beauty beckoned by the Alberta wild roses, echoed by the howling coyotes, and pointed out by the prickly cacti. It was also within the western reaches of these vast plains that we would come upon the rural acreage of Jim and Eileen Jones of Jones’ Woodworks who would give us a measure of the prairie oasis they call home, and share the exquisite woodworking that is their passion and livelihood.

Eileen, Jim and Daisy in their Morris chair

Eileen, Jim and Daisy in their Morris chair

Jim and Eileen have a long history of working with wood, having spent the last 35 years taking on roles as students, teachers and practitioners of this fine craft. For Jim, he started out with a friend building and selling furniture after leaving the public school system, realizing that his dream of being a lifelong physical education teacher wasn’t in the cards. He furthered his skills by becoming a journeyman cabinet-maker where he then took his knowledge back to teaching students once again, this time learning how to build something with their hands. At the same time, Eileen took up refinishing antiques as a sideline, also broadening her knowledge by reading extensively on the finer points of repair and finishing. She would experiment with many different finishes and decide on the most appropriate choice to accent a piece. As Jim notes, “I am the creator and Eileen is the ultimate repairer,” and asserts that a mediocre piece of furniture can look great if finished properly, but a nice piece can be diminished by poor finishing. It is this collaboration of their individual skills that lends itself well to achieving the most pristine form, function and visual appeal of each piece they create.

Bubinga Table and Bench

Bubinga Table and Bench

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Mellow Mood

Mellow Mood

Over the years Jim and Eileen have seen a shift in the buying trends for wood craftsmanship. Jim says that in the booming early years there were more affluent clients willing to purchase high-end hand-crafted furniture than the more prudent clients they have today in this uncertain economic climate. By happenstance, their woodworking repertoire took a turn when Jim starting turning wood on a lathe to create another form of art and income. It was actually Eileen that was given an old lathe from a good friend, and once Jim had fixed it up to working condition she gave it a try, only to quickly realize that it was not her cup of tea. Jim on the other hand started playing around with it, took lessons from other teachers and eventually became a professional wood-turner, turning out his own beautifully functional and artistic pieces. Eileen would then finish the piece, first figuring out the most suitable oil, varathane, polyurethane or wax, depending on the function of the piece. For Eileen the most important part of finishing is that it still shows the wood, and enhances the look rather than changes it. She says that it has to be super smooth and feel nice to the touch in addition to retaining its natural look. She will also paint on some of the pieces, creating impressions of figures influenced by the natural world outside their door.

Buffet

Buffet

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Jim and Eileen have learned a lot over the years. In addition to the changing buyers market they have also become aware of important factors such as where their wood is sourced as well as the finishing substances they use. With large companies willing to clear-cut forests to make profits and in the process causing environmental destruction and habitat loss to many animals and indigenous peoples, they have learned of the sustainable sources for their wood. Eileen has also learned to avoid using toxic finishes such as lacquer which requires special spraying booths for application, preferring instead to use more environmentally friendly substances which do not leave particles in the air.

Ocean Floor

Ocean Floor

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For Jim and Eileen their woodworking is more than just a business to earn income, it is an enjoyable lifestyle with many rewards. These include the many satisfied customers, the generous community of wood-turners, hosting retreat workshops, the peacefulness of their environment and to the time they can call their own. Each day manifests itself by how they want to live their life and who they spend time with; mostly each other.

To see more of Jim and Eileen’s work and to learn more about their process please click here.

Join us with woodworkers Jim and Eileen Jones, and feel free to leave comments below and share on social media and email:

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Arlene Ness Explores Art Through Culture

Our destination for today was the Gitanmaax Reserve in Hazelton, B.C. where we were meeting with Gitxsan First Nations multi-medium artist Arlene Ness. Driving into this scenic area we were struck by the imposing mountains and lush forests with their breathtaking, resplendent autumn colours! It was easy to avert my eyes occasionally to glance up at them, if only for a second. Suddenly, flashing lights in our rear view mirror suggested we were now getting a police escort by the friendly RCMP of this quaint village; we didn’t even know they were aware of our arrival! As I snapped out of it I realized that I had missed a school sign during one of those brief sight-seeing moments, and the police officer’s intention was not one of fanfare. Luckily he gave me a warning and sent us on our way. Without further delay, but well within the posted speed limit, we were once again on our way to Arlene’s place to get to know this diversified and prolific fine artist.

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene in front of her Grizzly stained glass

Arlene says that she has been creating art in various mediums ever since she was a child. From following her mother’s and sisters’ examples, to loving high school art classes, to seeking expertise and education from renowned teachers, to undeniably her own drive and initiative, Arlene has never shied away from pursuing art forms that intrigued her. Life inspires Arlene, and depending on what peaks her interest be it her mood, the seasons, her family or nature, she may indulge her creativity in carving masks, stained glass, jewellery, paintings and drawings. She has even undertaken the enormous task of carving totem poles under the tutelage of master carver Earl Muldon. How does one person manage to spread her creative energy around to all of these disciplines and excel at them, on top of raising four children and teaching First Nations fine art at the community college? From what I observed of Arlene she has this zen-like calm about her and knows how to set boundaries and balance her life so all aspects work in harmony. With her art, she doesn’t try to force her creativity in any one direction, but rather she takes guidance from her environment, embraces how she feels and lets it come to her. She is the proverbial water flowing around the rocks.

Hummingbird Dreams

Hummingbird Dreams

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The beauty of Arlene’s fine art transcends all cultural boundaries. Her style reflects the traditional Northwest Coast Native Art form lines which she maintains strict adherence to when working on art forms of the crests and symbols of other clans. When working on her own family’s crest and symbols she allows herself more freedom to include her own contemporary designs and interpretations. She is of the Giskaast clan; the traditions, stories and ancestral knowledge being very important to her, and it is her desire to pass down that knowledge to future generations. Her art work is an expression of herself, her culture and of the love she has for her natural surroundings and all its inhabitants. Seeing one of Arlene’s beautifully carved masks, for instance, invokes curiosity about the meaning behind it, and one does not have to be of Gitxsan ancestry to appreciate the story it tells or marvel at the craftsmanship. Though the oral history of each clan (adaawx) that is shared with succeeding generations is of primary cultural importance to the clan itself, the art that Arlene creates is the physical heirloom of her ancestry but is there for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.

Learn more about Arlene and her art as Corinne chats with her. Feel free to comment below and share on social media.

The story of Copperhaired Woman in "The Return" above can be found on Arlene's website

“The Return”


The story of Copperhaired Woman in “The Return” can be found on Arlene’s website

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Joe ~The Carver~ Ratushniak

Joe ~The Carver~ Ratushniak

Our journey to the rolling hills north of Merritt, B.C. brought us to a sprawling five thousand acre ranch where a guy named Joe Ratushniak carves wood for a living. When he is not carving, Joe and his partner Julia help out on the ranch with the cattle, the haying operations, general ranch chores and some riding. It is a breathtaking drive into the ranch with endless hay fields and heavy forestation all around. Ironically this environment is a bit of a conundrum for Joe. The peaceful surroundings and fresh mountain air makes an idyllic setting for him to work and yet he sometimes feels too secluded; sequestered away from the hustle and bustle and interaction with others which can be an important part of promoting your art and developing yourself.

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Click on the images below for a closer look at the full carving above:

Joe started out working for a log home builder utilizing his skills to make other people’s home living dreams a reality. The builder’s specialty would also include a carving of some sort as a signatory complement to the new home. One day the usual carver wasn’t available and so Joe was asked to do the carving. It was at this point in his life that carving wood for a living began. He has been carving for twenty years and is still giving life to people’s dreams but now it is in the form of commissioned pieces that range from sports bar tables, animals, masks and totem poles to name just a few. Joe figures that ninety percent of his work is commissioned by customers and the rest is from his own creative initiatives.

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When we first started talking with Joe we felt as if we were sitting in the office of an engineer or an architectural designer, not in the studio of an artist. He used words like blue print, proposal and give it some flair. It was at that point we realized we weren’t talking to someone who thinks of himself as an artist. Joe says so himself. He describes himself as a “journeyman” and although he does remarkable carvings they are still just jobs to him. As the conversation carried on Joe’s own transformation, not unlike the wood he carves, was taking place before us. His body language, his tone of voice and the words he used started to reveal an artist. His voice became louder and he sounded passionate and excited about stepping away from the journeyman and towards the artist. He used terms like spontaneity, something undefinable, draws you in and open to interpretation. Joe has about six solid ideas for his own art pieces which he is ready to pursue. He informed us that although he still has mixed feelings about art he knows that this is where he wants to be. Having said that, Joe’s art will still maintain a functionality to it, as he says, “to justify its existence in the first place”. What we observed was that Joe’s humble nature belies the fact that the amazing detail and imagination that he puts into his carvings is most assuredly art and certainly fine craft.

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The photographs throughout this blog show the remarkable work that Joe has done, and the video pans during his interview showing the degree of detail of these pieces will blow you away even more. On Joe’s latest commissioned piece he created a sports bar table supported by a Stanley Cup shaped pedestal base with the carved table top represented by a jersey in such detail that it appears as if it was a real jersey thrown on top of the table! Don’t miss it and be sure to check out our interview with Joe. We love comments and please share on social media!

The Grumpy Goat Gallery – Art and Antics

The Grumpy Goat Gallery – Art and Antics

“…then wind your way along a cliff-side road that drops precipitously down to the Atlantic Ocean, take a few more hair pin turns, and then just as you are about to go flying off into oblivion turn left at the yellow vehicle into the driveway of the lime green house and park in front of the yellow piano!” Huh? Yesiree, I definitely embellished the directions from that email, but that (more or less) was one of our first introductions to Cara and Pam and a glimpse into their world of colour and whimsy. Truth be told, it is a scenic route to The Grumpy Goat Gallery that overlooks the vast Atlantic Ocean with breathtaking views that have caught not only whales and porpoises cruising by but also ice bergs at one time or another, all to be seen from their panoramic porch.

After our loud Arty Farty van pulled up in front of the yellow piano, we got out and strode up their front porch expecting to see them. They were nowhere to be seen. Hmmm, what’s this sign? “Hi! Please Honk the Horn For the Studio” So we did. Honk! Honk! And then like magic, there they appeared! I can’t help but feel that we were the lab rats of the day, observing us to see if we would go back to our vehicle to honk Arty’s horn. Preposterous you say? It is a fate befallen by more than one unsuspecting gallery visitor as you will read in Cara’s blog (play dark and scary music).

I will let you in on a little secret! Maybe this shouldn’t get out! Am I jeopardizing their business? Well, here it goes anyway! We found absolutely NO grumpiness at The Grumpy Goat Gallery in Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador! Gasp! There, I said it! On the contrary, although we did meet their pygmy goats Rose and Sophia (and they aren’t grumpy either!), our meeting with affable artists Cara and Pam was filled with laughs, puns and hilarious stories of the lovely people that they encounter coming through the doors of their gallery. As a matter of fact, most of the gallery visitors are incited to smile, chuckle, or outright laugh as they notice the colourful and creative creations with often comical connotations displayed on the walls, floors, tables, or hanging from the ceiling. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Peruse the blog stories for The Grumpy Goat Gallery and you will see not only their wonderful mixed media creations, but also the creative comedic writing that is another forte complimenting the award winning mixed media work of Cara and Pam.

Cara is the self-taught artist that walks hand-in-hand with the child within her, looking at life with the curiousity, wonder and humour of a little girl and expressing it in her paintings. This gives her the gift of uninhibited expression. Pam is the self-taught carver and woodworker extraordinaire. We were stunned to learn that not only was she an incredible carver, but also built the woodworking shop, painting studio, goat barn and the house extension for the gallery all without a stick of training. The colourful fusion of the union between Cara’s historical and whimsical look at Newfoundland’s people, places and events and the three dimensional effect of Pam’s woodworking is nothing less than magical.

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Join us with the voices of Cara and Pam as they tell us their story. Don’t be shy to leave a comment!

Maurice Gamblin – One Good Turn After Another!

Maurice Gamblin – One Good Turn After Another!

I believe that many people could learn a thing or two from Maurice Gamblin’s view of life. You see, Maurice “retired” from his construction company business at the age of 41 to pursue an income resulting from doing what he loves to do, turning wood to create bowls, vessels and other decorative pieces. He saw other people continue with dissatisfying careers and were miserable, making him realize that there is more to life than the illusion of security and happiness by doing something you dislike, just for the purpose of earning a living. The fact that he has been creating and selling his wood pieces for the last 25 years is not only a testament to the dedication and commitment he has put forth to his true calling in life, but also to the fine craftsmanship that he delivers to each one of his satisfied customers.

Beside Maurice’s home are his workshop and gallery where he showed us the ropes of what it takes to start with a raw piece of wood and take it through the steps of turning, sanding and finishing it to create a beautiful and functional piece of art. Maurice is a soft spoken man, but his work on the other hand speaks volumes of the passion he has for creating one of a kind pieces that speak to you, such as the largest bowl he has turned to date, 52 inches in diameter! Maurice’s long relationship with wood has given him a lot of insight and experience into the process and artistic creation of each piece. For instance, he uses green wood when he turns a new piece because it is much easier on his hands and his tools to work with than dry, hard wood. The usual challenge with this is that the green wood drys too fast and then the wood cracks. Maurice found that by putting wax on the outside of the turned piece that it will dry slower, from the inside out, eliminating the cracking. Prior to this method there was 25% loss in his work and after utilizing the wax method that he developed it improved to less than 1%. Because of this innovation Maurice jokingly says that he doesn’t have to work as hard now!

Maurice has a passion for the arts and art education. In addition to starting a wood turners club in Newfoundland consisting of about 60 members to date, he is also the president and organizer of the Tobique Fiddle Camp, where I’m certain that Maurice’s great people skills, amiable nature and quick sense of humour have contributed greatly to the success and fun learning at these events. There are many accomplished fiddlers that show up for these events, such as J.J. Guy from Lintlaw, Saskatchewan, that have come to teach the students and pass on their invaluable experience. Just us Maurice has encouraged others to turn wood, so has he also encouraged others to pursue the fiddle, including his granddaughter Kimije. Wow, are we glad that he did! While visiting Maurice and his wife Shirley in the house that he had built and completed back in 1978, Kimije performed three songs for us and I’m sure the drop in our jaws was perceptible! She beautifully played a traditional Maritime song, a classical song, and a Celtic song.

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Our visit with Maurice was not only inspirational and educational, but it reaffirmed the philosophy that we also wish to live by: Do what you love, hopefully make a living at it, but at the very least discard an unfulfilling career that does not enrich your life.

Enjoy our interview with Maurice as he turns us on to turning wood:

Maurice Gamblin from Corinne and Gary Funk on Vimeo.

Bird Carver Don Smith

Bird Carver Don Smith

Don Smith came walking up to our van in the Mossbank campground and introduced himself as a friend of the folks camping next to us. How did we know them? They had recognized our van Arty from the Moose Jaw Walmart parking lot where we camped the night before, and finding out about our quest for artists from a chat with Corinne, thought of Don who is a bird carver. It’s funny how one thing always seems to lead to another, and I’m sure that synchronicity will be the most overused word that we put on our pages over the next few months, and certainly the most appropriate!

"Golden Eagle"

Don’s family had settled in Mossbank in 1941 and so Don was a wealth of historical facts pertaining to the area including the tale of Old Wives Lake and the Cree-Blackfoot battle, the air force training base that was there from 1941 to 1944, and the mountainous snowfall in February of 1947 that blocked the railroad to such an extent that they had to bring in a giant “snow blower” to cut a swath down the tracks. Don graciously showed us around the area including his home where he had fascinating documents, photos and paraphernalia from these historic eras gone by. And he even shared a joke or two!

"Don with some of his feathery friends"

He also showed us the remarkable carvings of birds that he displays throughout his house. Don’s foray into this art form started with his father who was a bird hunter, and who would document his birds by carving them. His work was extraordinary and he won many awards. When he had carved a goose and attracted a buyer for it that set the stage, and now Don has become an accomplished carver of birds in his own right and has won an award for an extraordinary Ruffed Grouse which is on display in the Shurniak Art Gallery in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan. Technology and materials have changed since Don’s father’s time and so now instead of painting on the feather details, Don can actually burn in the feathers using a hot iron and then paints the proper colouration.

"Meadowlark"

"Bohemian Waxwing"

Please enjoy these photographs of Don’s bird carvings as much as we enjoyed meeting and spending some time with Don and sharing with us his artistic passion. Please click on the three thumbnails below to view the birds in their entirety:

Bent Cedar Boxes Handcrafted by James Michels

Bent Cedar Boxes Handcrafted by James Michels

Above: Recently completed stunning Wolf and Hummingbird urn box.

James Michels is a Cree/Metis artist that pulls himself between his longstanding passion and experience as an accomplished musician, and his newer passion for creating and perfecting his Bent Cedar Box works of art. It was through his six years of journeying on the road playing music with his band within the pacific northwest that he came across the expert carvers and bentwood box makers that he would observe for hours on end and learn the skills and art form.

I had never heard of a bentwood box before until I stumbled upon James’ website. After looking at the magnificent boxes and panels, the uniqueness and beauty were evident, but there were many unanswered questions such as “where did they originate?”, “what are they used for?”, “are they still used today?”.

James Michels

What exactly is a bentwood box? The best explanation is an excerpt from James’ site:

“Bentwood boxes are one of the most outstanding items manufactured by Native people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including parts of southern Alaska, western British Columbia and southern Washington. Made by kerfing and steam bending a single plank to form four sides, the containers with a height greater than their width are called boxes, while those with a length greater than their height are referred to as chests. Historically, boxes came in various sizes from small (measured in inches) to massive (large enough to provide seating). Some undecorated, others carved or painted or both. The highly decorated ones were symbols of wealth. Fishermen used boxes shaped to fit into their canoes to carry tackle and supplies. Some were used for cooking (filled with water and hot stones) while others were used for storage of food, clothing, tools, or supplies.”

A bentwood "canoe" box, traditionally shaped and large enough to fit in the bow of the canoes to hold fishing tackle and to be used as a seat

As an addition to the uses for bentwood boxes, James said that he has been getting requests for urn boxes, one of which he was just finishing up when we visited with him. One of the urns that James was asked to create was from a family that lost their little boy. The song below that James wrote and performed is a dedication to that young boy.

Click on the player below to hear “I Will Be The Moon” by James Michels.

Join us below with James in his workshop as he demonstrates the fine wood craftmanship of making bentwood boxes: