2016 Visiting Al Gerritsen

Today marks the Feast Day of St. Nicholas and I was blessed to share an afternoon in Al Gerritsen’s studio with a friend.  Every time I visit Al, I feel calm and happiness and I take in everything I can; the visual aesthetic, the smell of wood, and the recollections of so many wonderful stories.

My nativity is set up in the front yard, the indoor nativity figures are set out on the table for Advent and it has become a bit of a custom for me to make an annual visit to the woodcarver’s shop, just to enjoy the friendship and the creative energy.

Today, I had the opportunity to hear about Al’s Christmas posters and selected four for my Gerritsen collection.  Each one, unique, and again, with a story all of its own.  I don’t think I’ve ever known such a prolific artist.  This second week of Advent is all about PEACE…and today was certainly that!

Following the visit, a hot cup of peppermint tea and some pretty special ocean vessel talk! Overall, a magical afternoon!

-18 and -30 with windchill, this day brought with it, sun dogs, two eagles circling above the Bow and frozen eyelashes at the pond.  Amazing day!

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Wood Carving Amazement

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One of the cherished afternoons I shared with my father, this past summer, was a visit to Al Gerritsen’s studio and wood shop.  Something I really admire about this artist is his humility about his craft.  He is selfless.  Just recently I had a conversation with a couple of my artist-friends and more and more we notice the self-absorbed ego that gets a tad too large in the role of ‘artist’.  It’s almost as if a particular type of narcissism has taken hold.  Is this the only way that a person can be ‘known’? Or if this is the only way, is it best to be unknown? Something to think about.  Al is one of the most inspired and prolific artists I know.

With his particular connections with and history in Saskatchewan, it ended up being a bit of an exchange of memories between the two men.  That was lovely to see. I know there are many wondrous art spaces and experiences that can be had in this city, but sometimes it comes down to sharing time with artists in their modest, but inspiring spaces…their studios.  I like that nothing is staged in Al’s studio.  A person is able to get the true sense of the production happening…how the tools are stored and used…and the evolution of amazing works.  There is no room here for candles and fairy lights.  It is a working space that is filled with energy and love.

Again, I want to express my gratitude for the work of Al Gerritsen.  His work surrounds us and his skill is exceptional.  Thanks for your willingness to share some time with Dad, Al, and to give us your stories.

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Visiting Al Gerritsen

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting Al Gerritsen’s woodwork shop.  I commissioned him to carve me a magpie, to add to my collection.  It was such an enjoyable visit and I felt in awe of his humility and his great talent, both.  The smell of his shop brought me very close to the young child, Jesus…and what it must have been like growing up with a father who was a carpenter.  It was fun to see Al’s nativity under his front yard tree.  I am blessed that Fred and Catherine shared theirs with me.

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Today I learned that Al was a Franciscan during the 1950s and 1960s.  I also learned that he apprenticed with John Nugent in Lumsden, Saskatchewan.  After Vatican II, Al was one of the artists who helped develop the liturgical spaces within churches, turning those altars around to face the people and creating visual art works that spoke of the connection between the Creator and his people.

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John Nugent, Lumsden, making final inspection of a chalice, 1959. On the bench is one of his wood carvings, entitled “Mother and Child.”
Saskatchewan Archives Board

Here, find a slide show of some of what I noticed and heard stories about in the studio.  Magic!

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Light the Advent Candle One

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Prepare Ye the Way!

It is a very sentimental thing to step into the church and see the beautiful decorations each Advent season.  I moved into my place in the sixth row, next to Joanne, and felt so at home…surrounded by love and good people.

This year, I have set up my own nativity figures at home, carved by Al Gerritsen.  I had dreamed to own a set hand carved by this humble and gifted artist for so many years and because of interesting circumstances, this is the year it happened.  It was awesome to spend time with Al in his studio.  He was busy, at the time, staining another project and the entire shop was filled with that magical aroma of wood.  Before placing the creche figures, I pulled a piece of violet satin and netting over the book shelf.  The wreath is set out on the feast table and now it is time to wrap the fruit cakes for the post!

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