Every family is filled with people who possess different and special skills or talents such as dancing, singing, gaming, etc. and my extended family is no exception. My little cousin is exceptionally smart and quick-witted, my grandmother (or Nanny) is the queen of crossword puzzles, and my sister can rap in multiple languages including French and Japanese. However, there are some relatives that remain a mystery to us. My Grandfather (or Poppy) is one of them.
During a recent trip to visit, my grandmother gave my sister, my little cousin, and me a challenge. We were instructed to go into the living room and count all of the wood pieces my grandfather had created. I was in utter shock by the statement because for the last 20 years I thought the wooden pieces that decorated my grandparent’s home were picked up at local craft shows. After finishing our tally, we discovered that nearly every single piece of wooden artwork (40+ pieces) was made by my grandfather and I had no idea until now.
I have always known my grandfather was a multi-faceted, renaissance man you might say. A retired NYPD motorcycle cop, a mechanic, a talented tinfoil animal sculptor, and an avid Looney Tunes fan. After learning of his unknown ability I had to know more. Was he taught by a family member, or did he take classes? Born in the mid-’50s to immigrant parents, he said that he was always creating things with his hands. I asked him when he started with woodworking and he said he’d always just had the natural ability ever since he was little. I was absolutely stunned, I had known this person my entire life and had no idea they were so skilled at wood carving.
Now I looked at everything in their house differently. The pieces were beautiful and so intricately detailed, some stained, some painted, some with ribbons and bows or little eyeballs; they were masterpieces. I asked if I could take some pictures and he humbly obliged. I was in awe, I even got to see two pieces that he is currently working on, a little goose and a little monk. He said he drew most of his inspiration from folk art with its illustrative style and heavy lines and of course his impeccable sense of humor. A large portion of his pieces are animals which made sense since he was referred to as the resident zookeeper of his precinct due to his love for rescuing animals he found while on patrol. I felt like I was talking to a master sculptor! Each piece told a story and was unique, from a tiny little worn shoe with all of its folds and crevices to a grouping of two smartly colored fungi. There was a master wood craftsperson in my family and we were newly acquainted. As an artist who tends to work mainly in the 2D realm, I was honored to get glimpses into the world of 3D art so close to home. You never know what wonderful gifts people hold and I’m so glad I learned of this one.