There was serious karma surrounding this particular casino table – petty crime, bad luck, and finally a sense of redemption.
Barry Parker, putting together a display for a wood carving competition, suddenly needed a cigarette.
Coming from a non-smoking family, he and wife Joanne conspired to sneak into a pub to steal a discarded cigarette butt just to see what it looked like up close.
The reason: Detail, part of a master plan to carve out a win with wood-only carvings of everyday items.
The results were so realistic, that on the day of the event in Seattle, two events chipped away at his chances.
First, someone tried to swipe the realistic-looking wooden cigarettes.
Then the judges disqualified the entry because they thought the wine bottle was made of plastic.
But the man walked away with a best-in-show ribbon.
Parker is not an easy man to pin down – not only from the fact that the one-time North Deltan is back after decades in Steveston, New Westminster and Princeton, but because he doesn’t focus on a particular genre of carving.
“It all depends on how I feel,” says the 70-year-old.
Back “home” since the end of April, he’s building a 350-square-foot backyard shed for carving, and his house is already a museum dedicated to the 30-year hobby.
Parker and his wife are happy to talk like curators.
He’s got aboriginal totems from his recent native art phase, a pair of non-matching boots that were a request from Joanne, a series of wooden “pictures” of labouring 19th-century Chinese peasants (the idea came from a book), a sprung hobby horse small enough for a child’s hands, a sprung hobby horse big enough to hold a 225-pound man, a detailed hooded merganser (below), a walking stick resembling the neck of a sandhill crane, and a realistic cooper’s hawk with glass eyes that came from Denmark.
Feathered creatures have always been part of the picture – ever since his first attempt at carving an abortive wooden decoy of a female mallard, where he learned that poorly measured proportions made for distorted birds.
He must still often draw and measure things properly, but admits “I can see something in a block of wood right away without much trouble.”
His tools are sharp enough to shave with.
Parker’s three favourite working materials are bass wood (from the U.S. Deep South, just slightly heavier than balsa), pine and red cedar.
On occasion, he’ll goes on hikes in search of his canvas, finding the odd treasure in the woods or abandoned industrial buildings. Some years ago, he picked up what were said to be 100-year-old grape vine roots that were sold from the back of a truck on the side of the road.
Parker, a former pressman, is now semi-retired. He’s not averse to the idea of a part-time job, but is content to keep busy whittling away.
Not set up online yet, Barry Parker can be reached at 604-679-4340.