Wood Carvings by Bill - a tribute to artist Bill Windsor of Olds, Alberta, Canada
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Bill Windsor of Olds, Alberta has tackled his retirement years with the same enthusiasm and zest he displayed in front of a classroom full of students. During his 34 year teaching career, his biology students were lead to gain an appreciation of the wonders of all living things. Each day he instilled upon these same students that learning is a life long experience. Learning shouldn't end with a high school diploma or university education. Since his retirement from the teaching profession over twenty-five years ago, Windsor has put into practice what he taught his students. Learning is a life long journey.

Sharp-tailed Grouse wood carving by artist Bill Windsor on Wood Carvings by Bill.
Sharp-tailed Grouse
"There's no such thing as retirement," says the eighty year old Windsor. "I retired from teaching but it doesn't mean that I am inactive."

Windsor spends his days gardening with wife Ruth, fly fishing along the Bow River (using flies that he has learned to tie himself) and trekking to the back country during bow hunting expeditions with family members.

Bill and Ruth, like thousands of other Alberta seniors, migrated for twelve winters, to the warmer climate of Arizona. It was there that Windsor learned a new craft that has become his passion, the art of woodcarving.

"I got started in Yuma where a fellow handed me a piece of wood and a pattern. That first effort (a work boot), turned out reasonably well and from there I was hooked," says Windsor. From that first piece of wood carving, Windsor has gone on to create a wide variety of wood carvings.

A pintail duck rests on a table of the Windsor home. It begs to be stroked, to feel the velvety smoothness of the tail, the downy softness of the breast feathers. Touching the bird is prohibited but if you could you would be surprised to feel the cool hardness of wood, not the warmth of the feathers found on a live bird.

Ruffed Grouse wood carving by artist Bill Windsor on Wood Carvings by Bill.
Ruffed Grouse
Getting to this finished work of art has taken Windsor years.

In Yuma, Arizona, he worked under the guidance of an experienced carver. "I owe "Chuck" Buford, a lot," says Windsor. "He got me started on more complicated things."

Windsor also turned to books and researched the work of world class carvers like Pat Godwin and Jeff Phares.

Taking a rectangular block of wood and creating a life-like work of art takes more than buying a piece of wood and having an idea. It takes diligent research of the subject. Creating detailed drawings that may not be found on commercially purchased carving patterns. Windsor even goes to the extent of having "bird skins" obtained from the Alberta Museum in order to carefully examine each feather. Once his research is done, Windsor then takes a block of wood (usually Bass, Tupelo or Butternut) and carefully draws an outline that will give him both a side and top view. Using a band saw, he cuts out the initial drawing. "Then you proceed to shape and texture the details," explains Windsor.

Blue Heron wood carving by artist Bill Windsor on Wood Carvings by Bill.
Standing Blue Heron
Windsor is a "power carver" meaning that he uses power tools to create these details. "I have even been known to use a chain saw," says Windsor.

Using these power tools and often wearing a jewellers' headband, Windsor meticulously sculpts the fine details to create the finished object. Windsor even fabricates the delicate feet for each bird using copper wire, super glue and baking soda.

"The final touch is to position your carving in a natural habits," says Windsor. "It's important when you enter competitions that the habitat fits the subject." Windsor knows first hand as he has captured a number of first place and Best of Show ribbons for his work.

Recently Windsor has turned to Calgary artist, Susan Rod, to expand his art form. Sue guided Windsor through the intricate feather details of his carvings. She helped him create three dimension using paint and brush.

"She's an exceptional artist," says Windsor. "I was fortunate to have been asked to join her group".

Windsor says that he has never considered himself to be artistic. "I contend that you must want to do it and be willing to put the time into it. If there's a will, there's a way. Carving is a personal obsession".

[Mary Jane Harper, Olds Gazette]
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