From carpentry and woodworking to painting and intarsia, this busy retiree does it all!
As a young boy, our dad Allan Bryant moved out west from Ontario with his parents and three other siblings to farm in the community of Retlaw in southern Alberta. Both during and following his school days, he held many jobs including delivering fuel and grain, driving a school van and working in a garage. When he eventually owned his own farm in Hays, Alta., he built a house for our family with the help of friends and relatives.
His talent for carpentry continued to serve him well over the years. He has helped people build garages, decks and fences, and even made a playhouse for his grandchildren in his backyard in Lethbridge, Alta. When asked how he got interested in carpentry, he credits a couple of people he refers to as “carpenter mentors” over the years.
Nearing retirement from his job at the Palliser Distillery in Lethbridge, and wanting to keep busy, he became interested in more intricate woodworking projects. These included wishing wells, wagons, carts, yard decorations, a doghouse, many types of clocks and a variety of bird houses for family and friends.
One favourite project was a tall, corner-stacking bird house that consisted of ten smaller bird houses. He also made more intricate pieces such as Christmas tree ornaments and decorations, trays, bowls, a Model A car and more.
After his retirement, Dad took woodcarving lessons at the Lethbridge senior centre, where he made carvings of various birds, bears, dogs, coyotes and even people. He has won many awards at the Lethbridge and District fair
for his work. Dad also won a few local awards for best decorated yard in his retirement village.
He sells his woodworking projects either on consignment or at various craft stores as well as at craft shows.
Family and friends as far away as Norway, England, Pennsylvania and British Columbia have travelled home with precious souvenirs that they purchased or were given as gifts by Dad.
When he decided to expand his interests, Dad took lessons in paper tole art (a paper craft with a 3D effect), as well as acrylic painting— mostly scenery and flowers.
Taking up wood burning, he used soldering tools to decorate wooden tables, saws, chairs and animal carvings.
Dad says of them all, his favourite craft is intarsia. It’s a woodworking technique that uses varied shapes, sizes and types of wood fitted together to create a mosaic- like picture with an illusion of depth. Dad learned how to do this craft by watching his neighbour and then borrowing his scroll saw. He enjoyed it so much that he eventually bought his own saw. His favourite intarsia piece is one of a cowboy, but he also enjoyed creating animal pieces, which included birds, dogs and horses.
In 1997, in memory of his parents, Dad donated his intarsia of Jesus called “The Last Supper” to the United Church of Canada in Vauxhall, Alta. It was a beautiful work of artistry and his most complicated intarsia project so far.
Dad is now 94 and still doing woodworking and wood burning, travelling by shuttle to the carpentry shop at the Lethbridge senior centre to receive orders to complete his projects.
Dad is proud that he has been able to make special pieces such as doll furniture, small benches, sets of table and chairs, rocking chairs and especially motorcycle rockers for his great-grandchildren to treasure and pass down to their own children some day.
My siblings and I are so proud of our talented and crafty dad, whose hobbies have certainly kept him busy, especially during retirement. n
Of all his pursuits, Allan’s favourite craft is intarsia. One piece in particular, which he is shown displaying at left, is special. He created this intarsia of Jesus, called “The Last Supper,” and donated it to the United Church of Canada in Vauxhall, Alta., in memory of his parents.