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Folk artist Barry Colpitts on how he was (kind of) forced into selling his unique woodcarvings

Did your parents ever make you pose for a family photo? You know — a fun afternoon of awkward head-tilting, smiling and getting into a fight over where the folk art sheep would sit in relation to the folk art penguin?

No? Well, in the “awkward family photo” world of the Conter family, proper placement of inanimate  family members ranked eerily close to where I appear in the picture.

Regardless of my losing battle for attention against brightly painted lobsters or wall decal fish, I love folk art. There. I said it.

I guess it’s not dissimilar to how people find themselves attracted to canvas paintings, antique teacups, or dinky cars.

You can’t help what you’re drawn to.

But to buy it is one thing. Creating it is quite another.

Local folk artist Barry Colpitts seemingly fell into the craft.

While working for years as a guard at the prison in Sackville, Colpitts was looking for something to keep his mind and hands busy.

Woodcarving just seemed to make sense.

“I started making mermaids — this would have been 1989,” he said.

“I was younger so a pretty woman that was half a fish seemed like a good idea.”

A closeted artist at first, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that Colpitts began placing his pieces outside his Tangier house for passersby to see. Though many fans had offered to purchase Colpitts’ hobby pieces, it wasn’t until a memorably persistent folk-art fan bullied Colpitts into it that he sold his first one.

“I continued to say no, until one guy just kept coming back, and to make him stop, I had to sell it,” said Colpitts.

“So that made me think maybe I could make money off this and I started doing it for a living.”

Now one of the more recognized folk artists in our region, Colpitts’ work can be found on display at Argyle Fine Art through to the end of the year.

He also has a host of buildings on his family’s 45-acre woods including a display gallery and a carving and storage shed.

Take a drive along Highway 7 in Tangier, and it’s pretty hard to miss the houses that folk art built.

What you need to know

•    Who? Barry Colpitts

•    Where? Argyle Fine Art, 1559 Barrington Street

•    When? Ongoing

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