Bancroft Studio Tour


Who among us can claim to have attained their full public school education in a one-room schoolhouse? Bronson-area wood artist and retired teacher, Lyle Collins can! Growing up on a large dairy and beef farm near Kincardine, Ontario, in the 50s and 60s—where the sparsely populated area was serviced by a single room-education facility, with one teacher instructing all 8 grades—Collins points out that a big plus was that he was well-prepped for higher grades while in the junior ranks by absorbing the lessons of those farther up the scale.

He attended a regular high school and even though, as a member of a large rural family on a farm where a life of work and service was readily available, higher education and sports involvement lured him to go off to study at the University of Guelph. There he majored in science and human kinetics and also met a student who later became his wife. And with his degree obtained, he moved on to get his teaching certificate at Queen’s University in Kingston.

With his wife’s family being Bancroft area residents, he visited here on a regular basis. And with his education complete, he first accepted readily available employment at Faraday uranium mine as a lab technician, focussed on the testing of production samples and worker exposure to radiation. After a five-year stint there, he landed work at North Hastings High School teaching math and science and physical education—and throwing in dancing lessons as an ongoing curriculum item—having even reluctant boys learn line dancing and swing!

With natural handyman skills, Collins built a log home for him and his family–the same home and lovely property on the York River where he lives to this day. A natural extension of his practical wood-working for the building of the house and other buildings was to start creating decorations and furniture pieces for their living quarters. And the setting up of a wood-working shop outfitted with saws and other wood finishing tools to assist with his crafting process. Over the years—and especially since his retirement from teaching in 2010—he has expanded his wood art to include salt and pepper mills and shakers, charcuterie boards, paper towel holders, coffee tables, benches, lamps and coat racks from an amazing array of hardwood trees sourced on his own property.

Early on Lyle took his wood art to craft markets in southern locations like Picton and north to Barry’s Bay—as well as the ongoing and seasonal events in the town of Bancroft. And will, of course have a wide array of choice wood crafts available for the studio tour during the last two weekends in September in his workplace at 616 Bronson Road. Although most of his creations have practical usage, the stunning wooden surfaces and finishes and colours and markings elevate what he constructs as akin to cousins of visual fine art.

(Profile writing and photo by Allan O’Marra)