With the advent of a New Year, it is always a . . . timely subject. Like the air we breathe, time is not something that can be conglomerated, hoarded, or created out of nothing. No matter who we are, or who we think we are, we are given a limited supply.
And then there are trees. When it comes to time, they tend to enjoy a greater chunk of it than humans do. Sequoia, yew, Bristlecone pine — these have lived in the low to mid thousands of years. But even trees reach the end of their time, and when they do, Leonard McCreary has a means of keeping them going:
He makes clocks out of them.
The Salem, OR, artist has been working around wood for most of his 88 years, having worked as a logger and road builder with artistry on the side. He started making clocks 40 years ago.
Clocking Time in the Workshop
“The father of a ‘kid’ I worked with in the woods gave me a 4′ x 7′ piece of redwood burl. I made a table out of it. After that, I discovered making clocks.
“Most of the wood I use is either cedar, maple, or black walnut, and I cut most of it myself when I was clearing land.”
The wood itself is integral to determining the shape of the finished clock. A cross section cut from the felled tree, each clock reflects the unique shaping that time and weather, environment and circumstances played upon the stem and main wooden axis of the tree. One looks like a bursting star in walnut; another, burled maple, features a swinging pendulum in the midst of a hole in the wood. Still another looked so much like the state of Washington that it wound up being so.
Working out of a shop at his home, McCreary says that the sanding process is time intensive, and when he has brought the shaped piece to a state of perfection, he coats the wood with resin to add a shine.
Each Tree Is Unique
In addition to clocks, McCreary continues to make tables, and later added birdhouses to his repertoire. For years, he sold his work at the Saturday market in Salem, as well as a clock store in Sisters, OR. He wouldn’t describe his clock-making as a labor of love, because it’s not so much work as creative joy. Each piece is as unique as the tree from which it comes, and what it eventually results into being is the result of a “conversation” between McCreary and the wood. Trees, like people, are most interesting when they are most individual.
It is time well spent, McCreary feels. Now retired from logging and road building, he enjoys focused time on creating clocks, and appreciates that there is no hurry about the process. Time is something well worth savoring, appreciating, and using for good purposes.
How we spend it, makes a difference.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.