Hobbies make the home

Published 9:34 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

Back in the 1980s, W.O. (Orris) Sanders was busy with his ministry – visiting the members of the congregation and doing other business of the church. His wife, Irene, supported and encouraged her husband in his ministry so she was used to his being away from home a good bit the time.

But she needed something to occupy her time during the hours her husband was off doing the work God had called him to do.

“I needed a hobby,” Irene Sanders said, with a smile. “Two friends of mine and I decided that we wanted to try painting. There was a weekly television show where an artist demonstrated the basic techniques of painting. To learn, we recorded the show and would play it back and stop it at different places. We did that for a couple of years and we got better all along.”

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The three ladies were guided by the television artist and painted the same scenes, but none of the three paintings looked alike.

“I guess we all developed our own styles,” Irene said.

After a while, the ladies “graduated” from the distance learning class and sought further instruction from books and trial and error.

“We started painting with watercolors because that’s what the artist used,” Irene said. “But then we started using oils and liked them better. We could work with them longer and it was easier to cover mistakes.”

With experience, Irene said she became more confident in her ability to express herself on canvas. And, as she became more “expressive,” he husband became her biggest fan.

“The paintings were so pretty that I thought she needed some really nice frames for them,” Orris said. “I’d not ever done any woodworking but I’d done a lot of building and fixing things on the farm so I knew how to use the tools. So, I decided to make frames for Irene’s paintings.”

The handmade frames enhanced the paintings, really “set them off.” So, Orris “signed on” as the official frame-maker for his wife’s paintings. And, along the way, he discovered that he had a latent talent – woodworking.

He started making other things – plant stands, benches, chests, coffee tables and tables.

And, as his wife had gotten better and better with her painting, so did he get better and better with the hammer and saw.

Woodworking became a hobby for Orris as painting was for Irene.

Their home in Goshen benefited from their handiwork – a gallery of art – hers and his and a very personal place. There hobbies made the home.

However, they both enjoy sharing their creations with family and friends.

Orris is much like Ivory Soap. He’s sure that 99.44 percent of his woodworking projects have been given away.

“I get a joy out of making something but I get more joy out of seeing my family and friends enjoy what I do,” he said. “I’ve sold a few special pieces that people have asked me to make but not many. That’s not why I make things.”

Orris likes to take pieces of wood from old barns and dilapidated structures and give them new life.

He recently donated his talent as a woodworker to make frames for Ruth Walker’s prints of the old Troy High School.

“The school was built in 1919 and closed in 1959,” Orris said. “It was taken down recently to make a place for the new library.”

During its 40 years, the old Troy High School offered educations and enlightenments to several thousand young people. Now, it’s just a memory. Unless.

“We thought that a lot people would like to have a framed print of the old Troy schoolhouse and that it would be a good fundraiser for Sav-A-Life,” said Lois Finlay, director. “Ruth Walker donated prints of her painting of the Troy High School to Sav-A-Life and Orris Sanders donated his woodworking talent to the project. The framed prints are beautiful and we appreciate the contributions that Ruth and Orris made to this fundraiser.”

Orris said the frames are made from wood that came from Troy High School.

“The wood came from the walls and different places,” he said. “I planed it and it’s really pretty wood.”

The frames made of wood from the old school make the prints even more special.

However, Orris also makes frames that are painted orange and blue, the school colors.

“The painted frames are not made of wood from the school but we thought some people might like the colored frames,” Orris said.

The framed prints are $75 each and are available by calling Sav-A-Life at 334-566-2880.

Orris has agreed to make 40 frames for the prints but, if his arm is twisted, he might make a few more.

“I enjoy doing things that bring joy to others,” he said. “I just finished a chest for a friend that’s made from the wood off a barn that was built back in the late 1800s. I think that he’ll like it. If he does, that’s the only pay I need.”

Orris left his workshop to take a truckload of boys down to the river fishing. No matter that the temperature was nearing 100 degrees. He was off on another pastime that brings him another kind of enjoyment.

His wife waved from the back door and retreated inside to the easel and the air conditioner.