Symbolic details celebrate the life of a departed friend.
SHOP OWNER: Jim Shaver
LOCATION: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
I grew up in a small village north of Montreal, notable in Quebec history. The population of 5000 was mostly French speaking along with a small population of English families. We knew each other well and as a Montreal Gazette paperboy in the 60’s and early 70’s, I knew many from my route. The families knew each other at all ages. When news came in January that one of our own was suddenly gone too early, it was a shock to all. News spread via Facebook and within the day most of us knew the sad news about Barry.
In true Mell family tradition, his passing became a celebration. As Barry was a well known and respected Blues manager and promoter, his many talented artists came together in early February and gave a concert in his honor. While there, I was inspired to do something for them with my skills. Together with his five brothers and sisters it was agreed they wanted to keep him close and to that end I would build his box.
The family gave me carte blanche in the design. I spent a few weeks working through possible ideas, as I wanted to personalize him in my work. My final design choice came when I was communicating with Darrell Peart and I thought his blanket chest design could be adopted to suit the box I was to build for Barry. Darrell was a true gentleman and offered his ideas and support in sharing his design with me. I can’t say enough about Darrell, but those of us who knew him as a friend know that he is always happy to share his time and talents. Thank you Darrell.
Barry was the second youngest born into an Irish Canadian family. The children were always very close with each other as well as their parents. In keeping their family story important in my thoughts, I tried to develop the design to reflect this. The wood I chose was African mahogany, a wood that is also commonly found in musical instruments. My decision to try to stay true to Greene and Greene design also meant ebony was a given.
The face of the box features Barry’s own signature, which was laser-engraved along with the Irish Claddagh. The top reflects the closeness of the six siblings, tied together in their love for music and honoring Barry’s life with Blues music. The ebony inset into the top is all hand carved and shaped. The oval notes are blue colored pau shells.
The box is held together with shaped finger joints, five on each corner, symbolizing the five surviving siblings holding Barry. On various faces there are combinations of ebony plugs, five on some, six on others, again reflecting the family and the loss.
The base has two larger ebony plugs, which reflect their parents, both now deceased, and foundation of their family.
The finish is one that Darrell shares on his website, a combination of orange and brown dyes. I used five wipe-on coats of Danish oil as my final finish.
This project has been an incredible journey. Those of you who follow me on Facebook have been witness to my step-by-step progress of this work. Throughout this project there have been many technical lessons for me, most involving hand tool techniques. For me, the bigger lesson has been my emotions and reconnection to what I love about working wood with hand tools.
I know that Barry’s youngest brother will be keeping him first, but I have a feeling in time Barry may be making trips to all his brother's and sister's homes. Barry always had an amazing smile and loved to make people laugh. I think this collage of him with family says it all. I wish to express my deepest thanks to his family for allowing me to be a part of Barry’s story.
. . . Jim Shaver