I find myself thinking of a now-friend, but initially just an Newfoundland craftsman I met on my first trip up there. He is older now, 91, and isn’t turning bowls and such any longer. In an e-mail I’ve received from him recently, he states that his “Dr. advised (him) to leave off or I may find myself being spun on the lathe. Good advice I guess.” Yes, very! Bren is still with us as well as his work. We are grateful for both.
Bren was one of the first people who befriended me in Newfoundland. While this is certainly not unusual up there, friends are made easily, we have remained in touch since my travels. I think about him often, especially as I see his craft work, really art work, around our house. It never ceases to bring a smile to my face.
I wrote about Bren back in late November, 2012 and felt since my most recent correspondence with him, it was appropriate to update that posting with some additions.
The sign said “Granny’s Well Turnings and Handcrafted Gifts.” So that was two more things I thought I needed to do: find out what a well turning was and meet Granny. Neither was what I thought and neither disappointed.
It was good to get out of the car and stretch my legs. Walking up to the house I was greeted by an elderly and dignified man, Bren, in work clothes. We exchanged greetings and introductions. He said I was the first one of the year. Anywhere else, I would have thought this to be the opening line in a bad horror movie in its undertones. Here it meant I was the first tourist of the year. Not surprising as it was still winter and most visitors wisely wait until the weather is a bit more clement.
He invited me into his house. Bren said he would have to get his wares out of the closet where they’d been stored in the off-season. We walked through his workshop where on the floor, all over in heaps and piles, were unfinished bowls and spindles and trinket boxes curing and drying before he could finish them. They came from burls he’d taken off trees. He said it was several years worth of work to do. (I did say he was elderly, didn’t I?)
Bren was and is your typical Newfoundlander – practical, unpretentious to a fault, funny, and most welcoming. And his work was beautiful. We talked some more; he wanted to know what I was doing up in Newfoundland and if I liked what I had seen. Oh, yes, I said. I loved it. I told him I was photographing rural Newfoundland and where I was off to next. He asked me to come visit with him again if I would be back that way when I returned to St. John’s, a couple of hours away. I told him I would try and get down to see him again. I would.
I did see Bren again that trip prior to departing. He asked me about my flight information and when I was leaving. I told him and asked why. He said I should have a proper send-off. So I find myself at the airport ticket line for a 7:30 AM departure. It’s probably around 6:15 when I hear my name being called. I turn around and it’s Bren! Proper send-off indeed. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Bren lives at least two hours from the airport. At least! Proper sendoff? You better believe it!
Little did I know at the time, but it would be the first of several return trips to visit with him. Oh, by the way, there was no Granny, just Bren. And a lot of beautiful well turnings.