Naturalist and poet Henry David Thoreau once said, “I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which corn grows.”
For Ron Bonar, he started believing in the forest as a young boy.
“Scouting got me into conservation, and led me to the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University, where I earned a B.S. degree in 1965,” he said. “I joined the Peace Corps to go to Peru, to see if I really liked forestry and to spend my vacation time exploring Inca ruins. After serving two years working in the Amazonian Rainforest, the Andes Mountain, and the coastal desert of Peru, the USDA Forest Service offered me a position on the Chattooga Ranger District, which included Helen, Ga., before the present day alpine village, conceived on a napkin, became a reality. Other places I practiced forestry were Virginia, Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi and Oregon, before transferring to South Carolina and retiring in 2002. No matter what job I had, I never could spend more than 50 percent of my time in the forest. Alaska provided my best experience, that is, less paper work and more field work. I collected boxes of odd-shaped pieces of found wood and rock.”
Regarding his passion for woodworking, Bonar said “My dad’s hobby was woodworking and I watched him show me how to do things. Once I got out on my own, I used only hand tools in the beginning but when I moved to South Carolina in 1994, I started buying bigger equipment. I like wood, its looks, the unusual grain patterns, and it’s so tactile. After retiring, I produced strictly crosses and walking sticks for a limited market and now, I also make knick knacks and wood sculptures.”
Bonar has the knack for finding odd pieces of wood and seeing the form in the wood. For example, in his workshop, he has pieces of wood that look like a two-headed fish, a woodpecker, and the famous The Scream painting by Edvard Munch. From a camellia branch he has made a walking stick that looks like a snake. He is also an accomplished carpenter and has completed interior carpentry in his home.
“In 1971 we moved to Virginia, and while browsing an antique furniture store, we found two 1930’s-era oak kitchen chairs. My neighbor made plywood seats and my plan was to refinish these wobbly and paint-splattered chairs. I postponed the job till 2011!” he added.
Today, Bonar participates in a few local craft shows and hopes to participate in a future Aiken’s Makin’. His work is available through the Artistic Perceptions Studio on Broad Street. He is a member of the Augusta Authors Club and during his 37-year career in forestry produced 15 publications. He interviewed people in the forestry industry including “mining technicians and botanists who oversaw a rare plant.” He also wrote a small book on the biology, management and methods of control of the northern pocket gopher that only ate roots and could eat the roots of whole tree plantations.
In 2003, he became a Docent at the Morris Museum of Art where Bonar conducts tours for kids in Spanish. In the North Augusta Artists Guild’s 2013 Fall Into Art Show, Bonar won the People’s Choice award for his Forest Fire Survivor wood sculpture. In 2012, he won second place at the Fall Into Art show for his sculpture, Ungulate Horns.
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