His signature has long faded from weathering in cherished usefulness. The handle’s slight curve fits my hand perfectly, still smooth to the touch.
Each morning I retrieve my little pine cutting board, I pause to think about it’s maker, and his inspiring story.
He was a race car driver.
He is in the Canadian motorsports hall of fame, and participated in Formula 1. He was sought by Hollywood and became Steve McQueen’s stunt driver double.
He hung out with Paul Newman.
He was like a Clint Eastwood character, lean and quietly graceful with salt and pepper hair, clad in denim. When I met met him in the 80’s, a woodcarver, he gave the impression of anything but a person who had once lived the fast life.
He was rather reclusive, residing in a remote part of Vancouver Island with his lovely wife, in a log cabin made by his own hands.
He was my landlord.
I knew nothing of his previous career, and I think that pleased him.To me, he was a soft spoken, nature loving spirit, who rented me the wee loft above his studio.
Arriving to collect first rent, he spotted my sketches on the table. That glimpse inspired a host of questions and dialogue about creative process, the life of an artist and what brought him to his chosen career of carving.
Have you always worked with wood? I remember asking.
Well, I once drove cars.
The fast kind.
He was private and reserved, so, respectfully I didn’t inquire about his dramatic change in locale and career. When it did come up in conversation, as he fixed my broken front window one day, the sunlight glinting off his calloused weathered hands, he voice became even quieter.
Finding his way to working with wood full time, a childhood joy, was a life saver, he said.
‘Hollywood” he said with a sad downturn of his mouth and shake of his head, wasn’t a ‘real life.’ The people, their parties, and negative energy. He needed to retreat, work with his hands again, be in nature. Be real.
“Art,… Dawn, …It’s truth.”
Invited to their cabin hideaway, he proudly presented home, cabinets and furniture all crafted by his hands. It was an incredible undertaking and I had a hard time comparing these hands with those that once gripped a leather steering wheel of a car going 350k an hour.
Wheels.ca writer Allan De La Plant asked him about the relationship of art and racing ( 2013) AdlP: Do you think there is a relationship between racing and art?
JC: I don’t know. Somebody did a survey on racing drivers, and what makes a racing driver, and he came up with (the fact that) some are big and fat, some are tiny, some are tall, some are short, but every one of them had special eyes. You got to have those eyes.
Me, I’ve got mean eyes (he squints and a twinkle takes over). So that’s maybe it. Good eyesight and, of course, a total lack of fear of the car. I’m afraid of everything else in the world, but I was never scared of driving 350 km/h in the car. That was just good fun.
I have the good fortune to have met incredible artists, artisans and craftsman. Their stories are a reminder we come from many unique backgrounds. We arrive with character built on experience, not without scars or fear. Often a return or journey to nature is a catalyst for positive transformation.
Most aren’t driven by a solo passion, their lives filled with diverse interests and backgrounds, contributing to the work, and what we become.
Creativity finds us, or we discover it.
Rather than art defining who we are, it is a place of home, a place of truth.
A walk in the woods walks the soul back home. ~ Mary Davis
Purple Flax ~ 8×10 oil on canvas $500.oo
Island Mist ~ 4ftx2ft oil on deep profile canvas( final stages) $3,960.oo