Woodworking artist finds inspiration in daily life

Third Stampede win in a row

By Dan Singleton
MVP Staff

Award-winning Olds woodworking artist John (Jack) Smythe says he finds his inspiration in the things he sees and experiences in his daily life.

There is lots of inspiration these days and what I’ve learned is that artistic design is all around you every day,” Smythe said in a Gazette interview.

“That is the key point. It might be something in nature or I might pick up a magazine or a newspaper and see something that has nothing to do with art and I’ll think maybe I can do something with that. And some of it is your history.”


John (Jack) Smythe shows off his award-winning vessel, as well as three wooden antique oil cans he carved and also entered in the 2015 Calgary Stampede. – Joseph Ho/MVP Staff

Smythe took a first-place ribbon for his work at the 2015 Calgary Stampede Western Showcase arts and crafts competition – making it the third straight year that he has come away with a top ribbon.

This year he was awarded the first-place ribbon for his turned and pyrography (also known as wood burning) decorated vessel in the feather theme western category of the woodworking section.

The entry was also awarded second place in the overall woodworking section.

The vessel was turned from a B.C. big leaf maple tree burl, and the feathers were drawn and burned into the wood.
He explained that it took a couple of weeks’ work to complete the vessel in his Olds workshop.

“It takes quite a while to prepare the wood,” he said. “Determining the design is the difficult part for me, coming up with the design, because of course I have no training as an artist. The turning is mechanical. You turn it on a machine and you learn how to use the tools without busting up the wood.

“When it comes to the decorating, then coming up with the designs is the most difficult part for me.”

Smythe was a first- and second-place winner at both the 2013 and 2014 Calgary Stampede.

Smythe is a member of the Wellspring Visual ArtNetwork Association (wellspringvisualartnetwork.com), the Airdrie Regional Art Society and the Mountain View Art Society.

An accountant by trade, Smythe describes himself as a “self-developed artist.”

“In the mid-1980s I began a serious interest in woodturning which I continue to develop,” he said.

Smythe is currently participating in Wellspring’s summer Artwalk program, with his work, including the award-winning vessel, on display at Craig’s at 50 Avenue and 51 Street in Olds.

Published in the Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Mountain View Gazette, Olds, Alberta.