But though the kids are now moved away to Farmington, Grand Junction, and Elko, no time goes to waste on empty nester blues in this Austin couple's handsome and comfortable home perched atop Cory Bench.
Darlene is still active in her education career, teaching the men and women who will teach our next generation of youth how to read and write.
And for Len, he has more irons in the fire now than when he used to work all day and spend the rest of his time with family.
Len and Darlene have learned what other successful people have learned: That when you've spent the quality time with family and the kids go out on their own to make good for themselves, life is a field of dreams. Len's own personal field of dreams is now filled with youth mentoring activities, fire district board meetings, and the duties of an Orchard City Trustee and town board committee member. But at its heart is his love for the skill craft hobby of woodworking.
Take a careful look at some of the amazing detail in Len's work and you will see the patience of a mind in focus and a spirit in control. The hours of planning, preparation, and execution evident in each one of Len's scrolling designs conveys a sense of quiet confidence, like the man himself, whose sense of humor and ready smile can put a guest immediately at ease.
Len and Darlene's home rests in a rural setting with corn growing on 20 acres to the north and a panoramic view of the Gunnison River and Valley to the south. For a full 360 degrees there are views of the Grand Mesa, the Raggeds, the West Elks, the Gunnison Gorge area and Smith Mountain, the San Juan Range, and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
Their small lawn is manicured and vibrant green. Flower beds and ornamental plantings show Darlene's attentive care, as does their home's functional and cozy interior. Lens' shop is no less a work of planning, precision, and practicality than the rest of their home is. The shop is easily accessible, and ideally situated in the basement with walkout and vehicle access overlooking the Gunnison River.
It is outfitted with everything needed to work with wood: router and bench, several sanders both hand-held and stationary, shaper, table saw, radial arm saw, drill press, band saw, planer and plenty more general shop stuff you'd find in any guy's personal space. The larger equipment is mounted on casters for easy mobility, which saves on shop space and keeps work areas orderly and safe.
Len's wood shop is kept in serviceable condition by a powerful and efficient vacuum system that keeps wood chips and sawdust under control, and with an air filtering system that picks up where the vacuum leaves off.
Len gets his ideas for scrolling project designs from trade magazines and other publications that provide printed patterns.
"I mostly use hard woods in this work," Len says of the craft which is also known as hardwood scrolling. "But, I've gotten into using aspen as well because it is so easily available in this area."
The hard woods can run into some "big bucks" he says, so he has learned to save money buying some of his wood online from trusted suppliers.
Paduka is an African hard wood with a dramatic, dark reddish color that Johnson is particularly fond of using in this work. A favorite scrolled piece of an eagle within an eagle he did for Darlene uses paduka as a giant sun in the background. "In direct light it glows just as red as can be," Len says.
"One of my own favorites I call ‘The Big Four,'" he said while showing the best angle at which to view the piece. The delicate silhouette outlines reveal, all from slightly different views, the trophy of four of the most popular big game animals in North America - white tail deer, mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.
Darlene is fond of moose, and Len made her a handsome portrait out of walnut showing a full-antlered bull. It is displayed in their home on a wall perfectly set off by wallpaper with a moose and forest motif.
The skillful and imaginative thought process that Johnson puts into tailoring pieces to specific coloration and grain of a piece of wood is now leading him into a new area of woodworking called intarsia. Intarsia is a type of wood inlaying technique that is somewhat similar to marquetry. The technique is also executed in cloth designs.
With intarsia, individual pieces of wood of differing grain, color, hardness, luster, etc., are each one individually and precisely shaped and fitted tightly together to produce a scene, portrait, pattern, or other artistic representation.
Johnson hasn't yet begun his foray into the new world of intarsia. But he is looking forward to the day and has collected a sizeable cache of smaller wood scraps that will be the raw material for the work when he is ready to begin.
Some of Len's scrolling designs are on display and for sale at Miller's Deitch Haus Restaurant gift shop on Highway 92 in Delta.
Most of Len's own favorite scrolling pieces are hanging in his and Darlene's home, along with a few other objects of true art - photos of the Alaskan fishing trips that he and his son have taken.
These great photos document the ultimate fishing experience of landing a 30- to 40-pound river salmon on a lightweight fly casing outfit and a tiny dry fly.
Len recalls, "We were using ten- and eight-weight rods with fly reels. We had to let those big fish run for maybe two hundred yards. Man, they just go! They will strip the line right out of your reel.
"Sometimes we'd have to run down stream along with them to keep from losing our line, and when they got tired we'd slowly work them back, fighting with them all the way. We were catching 12 to 16-pound fish all day long. We were just having a blast!"
Speak with Len Johnson for just a little while and you will understand that for him, working and living are a blast, too.blog comments powered by Disqus