Someone once said: "It's not the journey that's important; it's the people you meet along the way."
It's certainly not a grand quote as quotes go, I'm not even sure as to whom to give the credit ... but, it's certainly something we've all heard in one form or another.
And, with all that said, I'm not sure that I am even in complete agreement with it (the journey is pretty important too. I love a good road trip!). But I am sure of one thing — those you meet just might impact your life. And in ways you never could have imagined.
If you should meet me along your journey, let me introduce myself — I am Blake Welch...graphic designer, business owner, and ... "sculptor."
My firm, Welch Creative Group, is responsible for the design and production of Health Elevations. In doing this work, my responsibilities include gathering of imagery to support the publication's stories. This quite often takes us away from our Denver studio and to the far reaches of the state: Durango, Alamosa, Grand Junction, Leadville, etc.
Earlier this year, one assignment took me to Las Animas, in southeastern Colorado to photograph Don White, a retired art teacher who delivers fresh produce to homebound seniors.
Don, as you probably suspect, impacted my life in a most unexpected way, becoming a friend and mentor.
During the course of photographing Don for the article, I struck up a conversation with him while we waited for the photographer to set up the lights. Conversation bridges the downtime since the setup can take a lot of time. It also helps me learn more about the person (which can sometimes present another shot option).
From this conversation, I learned that Don grew up in Las Animas and left after high school for the Army. He had a career of teaching art within the public schools (throughout the state) and only recently returned to his childhood home. Meshed within his teaching career, Don has travelled the world: Russia, Chile, Mexico, Israel to name but a few. These weren't brief stops on tours, but extended stays — six years in Chile, several months in Russia, etc. During each of his stays, he taught English, art and sculpting.
When I told him that I loved sculpting, but simply didn't have time to pursue the art, Don's eyes lit up — perhaps a bit cautiously. After all, we had only just met. I'm sure he wondered if I was genuinely interested, or simply making small talk.
We chatted more, captured more images, and wrapped (finished) the shoot.
We were packing up when Don looked at me, and paused... "Say, I've some sculptures at home if you have time, and are interested..."
I did have time (sort of), and was interested (very).
His apartment was a quick three blocks away. We followed him to his home. It was a modest home. The sculptures, however, were stunning three-dimensional wall hangings.
This is the point where Don impacts my life. At the end of our visit he asked if I wanted the sculpting tools, wax, etc., that were stashed away in a closet. He had recently lost his ability to sculpt due to a health condition — his once-steady hands could no longer complete his mind's vision and he wanted to give his tools to somebody that could/would put them to use. For some reason, he saw me as a worthy recipient.
And for some reason, this deadline-driven, busy guy, responded to his offer with a: "Yes, I'd love them!"
The photographer and I packed them up and headed back to Denver. I spent a good part of the four hour drive home mentally mapping-out my foray back into the world of sculpting.
Don followed-up with me a week later via e-mail, asking if I'd like to takeover the sculpting of the unfinished wax-relief he had shown me. It was a beautiful representation of a garden setting, resplendent with birds, flowers, trees, gates, arbors and gardeners.
That creative voice from deep within me said: "Yes! Again!?"
We arranged a date, and set a time to pick up the artwork.
I went back to Las Animas. We had lunch at a local café where we talked about art, travel, life... Then we spent the balance of the afternoon in his community center where he taught me the steps and tricks that go into all of the stages of creating a bronze sculpture.
The unfinished sculpture that Don left in my charge now sits on a table in my family room, headed towards completion. Don has given me free-license to follow my own vision. I suspect there will be a blending of visions. My family is involved, at his suggestion, and they are thrilled to see me following a long-dormant dream to sculpt again. It's been hibernating for 27 years.
Sometimes on your journey, the people you meet, just might introduce you to yourself.
Thanks Don, it is great to meet you.
And not too bad to meet me.
A profile of Don White's volunteer work with Las Animas Community Garden appeared in the spring edition of Health Elevations.