Jordan Straker was never taught how to carve wood.
“It was about 30 years ago,” Straker recalled. “I had a hand injury and I got a Dremel for Christmas, for which I had no use for. But somehow, I learned how to use that Dremel for wood carving.”
The very first carving he finished was submitted for a competition, which won him best in show.
“That ribbon hooked me,” Straker said. “I learn every day. I wake up every day, excited to discover something else.”
Not only is the artist self-taught, he also doesn’t need to look for inspiration.
“I have a bit of an eidetic memory. Things that I carve now are things I recall seeing at my grandmother’s farm when I was six years old,” Straker explained. “Other than that, I just make it up. I don’t use any reference material.”
The carver works with wood and bronze, as well as another unique medium: gourds, a hard-shelled fruit similar to a pumpkin which he sources from California.
“It carves exactly like wood when you’re using power, not a chisel,” Straker said.
The artist’s one-of-a-kind original art pieces range from wooden guns and holsters to native clothing, bears and baseball gloves. Each piece is meticulously detailed and can take up to six months to complete.
“I’ve been very blessed,” Straker said. “I have a handful of collectors and they probably own between 10 and 30 of my pieces each.”
One of these collectors is country singing legend Dolly Parton, who was a recipient of one of Straker’s generous gifts — a coat of many colours.
The singer was so impressed with Straker’s work that she partnered with the Penticton artist to make a Christmas ornament version of the coat, with proceeds going to Dolly’s Imagination Library program.
“Money and I don’t have a good association. When someone asks what I want for a piece, it’s very hard for me to put a dollar amount on the blood, sweat and tears,” Straker said. “When you give a gift, the only value is from the heart.”
For those wishing to try wood carving, the artist has posted beginner gourd carving lessons on Vimeo.
“It’s my passion, it’s my hobby, it’s my career and it always lends itself to a beautiful gift.”
Straker’s work can be viewed on his website Jordan Straker.