For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council features woodcrafter and visual artist, Melvin Vincent. Before the Pine Falls Pulp and Paper Mill ceased operations, he worked in the thermal mechanical section and, prior to that, he sharpened materials in the stone ground area. A lifelong resident of St. Georges, he is a self-taught artist with a great fondness for decorating pieces of wood with acrylic paint.
Like many people in our region, Vincent has always enjoyed nature and wildlife, and his interest in painting grew out of his interest in taxidermy. He said, “It began with Charlie Niedermeyer. He gave me a crash course in taxidermy and I did it for fifteen years. Then I started painting and I’ve been doing that for the past fifteen years.”
Many Eastman residents know Charlie Niedermeyer for his handcrafted knives, wildlife carvings, and paintings. Niedermeyer’s work has been purchased by hunters, fishers, and art-lovers from all over the world. Recently, he donated a hand-carved paddle with the blade covered on both sides with scenes from the boreal forest. It will be auctioned off in a WRAC fundraiser, along with smaller paddles decorated by selected WRAC artists.
Niedermeyer’s son, Jim, another well-known local artist, creates chainsaw carvings and has participated in multiple large-scale competitions. Inspired by the Niedermeyers, Vincent started chainsaw carving and joined the Winnipeg River Carving Association. Now he’s the president of this organization.
Recently, the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg asked the Winnipeg River chainsaw carvers to put on a showcase carving event. Some of the carvers required slabs to make benches. Vincent volunteered to saw the slabs, and went out and bought a portable Alaskan saw mill.
This opened up new artistic possibilities that he wanted to explore so he has sliced up hundreds of cottonwood, poplar, and other woods into slabs of varying thickness. He makes sturdy benches out of the pieces, etches the surfaces with a heated drawing tool or paints wildlife and boreal forest scenes on the wood, and covers his artwork with a durable finish. He also saws logs on a diagonal angle to create smaller works of art. He keeps the live edge on the slabs to add striking visual interest. “Live edges” means the bark is not removed from the logs.
In 2017, he suffered a stroke and had to be rushed to Winnipeg from the Pine Falls Hospital. His doctors told him the stroke could have crippled him for life. He said, “Thank God for Stars Ambulance. I received medical attention quickly.”
Grateful for the airborne life-saving assistance, Vincent created a wood bench which was auctioned off with all proceeds going to Stars Ambulance. They raised $1650.00 from the bench he donated.
Given the rapid medical care and his determination to keep active, he now suffers only a few minor symptoms. From the looks of his many projects-in-progress and workshops full of his art, he has been very active. His business is called “Vincent Woodworking and Arts” and interested buyers can call 1-(204) 367-4376 to view his work. He said, “I have lots of paintings, wood carving, and benches. I’d really like to sell some and make room for my new projects.”
It’s worth the trip to St. Georges, just to see the magical creations he fashions from large pieces of wood.