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.

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:

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.