Firestone intarsia artist won three ribbons from Weld County Fair

Belen Ward
bward@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/11/22

A Firestone artist's unique woodworking style garnered him three ribbons at the Weld County fair and the everlasting gratitude from a descendant of Buffalo Bill Cody.

Firestone's Ron Miller work …

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Firestone intarsia artist won three ribbons from Weld County Fair

Posted

A Firestone artist's unique woodworking style garnered him three ribbons at the Weld County fair and the everlasting gratitude from a descendant of Buffalo Bill Cody.

Firestone's Ron Miller work on a commissioned plaque of Buffalo Bill won him three ribbons at the Weld County Fair. The bust was made in the Intarsia style of wood inlay for Fort Lupton residents Jan and Ron Brown.

"It felt good for me, Jan and Ron Brown they hired me to make this Buffalo Bill for them and their family. This is a family heirloom to pass on in the generations to come. I am glad it was recognized as a worthwhile piece and they can be proud of it," Martin said.

Martin entered the Buffalo Bill intarsia at the Weld County Fair with Brown's permission under the fine arts competition, and it won the champion ribbons.

Jan Brown from Fort Lupton is a descendant of William Cody Buffalo Bill who collects photos, books and memorabilia in a family museum.   She commissioned Martin to make a bust of Buffalo Bill as a family heirloom.

Cody is ancestor three times removed, making him her great, great, great uncle.

"We are the fourth generation three times remove, or something of that nature," said Brown.

Martin said the form of the medium he submitted is called intarsia, which was developed in 16th century Italy. He uses different wood species from the Midwest and Firestone to create the color and texture for Buffalo Bills pieces.

Buffalo Bill's hat is a piece of an old cedar utility pole. His hair is from Spalted maple – a rotted piece of maple discolored with black streaks from a fungus. The iris of Buffalo Bill's eyes is from a piece of a Russian Olive tree that grew near Firestone library. 

"The walnut came from a lone tree growing along the Rock River which was cut in the last century for a bank being built in New York. I requested, the Publics Works Department to save a few chunks of it for me for this piece. I used walnut and cherry from Wisconsin," Martin said. "I saved the discarded limbs for Buffalo Bill. The cherry was salvaged from an Oak Savanna restoration in Rock County."

Grew up in the midwest

Before Martin re-invented himself as an artist, he grew up near Janesville on a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin. He and his wife were also dairy farmers on a 96-acre farm, but they couldn't make a good living.

Martin said he started a business of native restoration called Midwest Prairies that managed woodland prairie and habitat restoration, which is related to farming.

"It controls weeds and invasive species so they can plant wildflowers and native grasses to create wildlife habitat," he said.

When the Martins retired from the native restoration business, they decided to move to Colorado.

"My wife always wanted to live where she could see the mountains. So retired, we moved out to Firestone, Colorado," Martin said. We also were interested in history and joined the historical society in Fort Lupton.

Discovered woodworking as an art

Martin started his wood carving hobby after meeting a man named Randy. The two would walk every day on a trail behind Martin's house.

"I started a conversation with the guy he invited me to his house and he introduced me to intarsia artwork. He and his wife must have up to 400 of this type of art, all over his house. He is a natural artist and also does chainsaw carving, too," Martin said.

He had always liked working with wood, and Martin thought this would be an excellent opportunity to learn from Randy.

"I used paper patterns and glue the patterns to the wood, then you cut our pieces of wood using a scroll saw. The real artistic challenge comes from choosing the right pieces of wood to get the desired texture, the woodgrain and the color of the wood to make it look natural," Martin said.

Martin said the wood for his works comes from all over the country. He keeps his eyes peeled when he and his wife travel in their RV, looking for the right pieces of wood. He'll stop at the waste sites and find nice pieces of wood lying there, and he throws them in the bottom of his RV.

"When I get home, I sorted them all out and cut them open and lay them out on a rack. So, when I'm doing a project I pick and choose what seems to work with my piece," Martin said.

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