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Judy Gale Roberts

Simply The Best
by Donna Zibley
(From the October 2010 issue of SAW)

Minnesota-based North Star Scrollers, a one year old club, recently accomplished a feat that defies the common wisdom that 'the only time you start at the top is when you dig a hole.' The last weekend of July, Woodworking Hall of Famer and a co-founder of modern intarsia, Judy Gale Roberts, came to the Twin Cities suburb of Bloomington to teach a half-day seminar attended by 50 folks and a hands-on intarsia workshop for eight. If that isn't starting 'at the top' -- then what is?

Judy's seminar was a Power Point program and lecture on the history of intarsia, basic tips and techniques, and a step-by-step lesson illustrating the construction of a Raccoon intarsia project that was later the subject of that weekend's workshop. With the price of admission, each seminar attendee received a Raccoon project package with a pattern and detailed instructions to complete the project.

One thing we all noticed was that Judy is not simply a woodworker; she is first and foremost, an artist. She sees things that the rest of use would never think to look for -- like how to sand and shape any project in such a way as to make the highlights and shadows play off the wood. The pinnacle of the seminar though, was seeing Judy's display of finished intarsia projects. Jaws literally dropped as even the most experienced local intarsia artists gazed in wonder and awe a Judy's masterpieces. We all knew that we'd never again see work so incredibly perfect and beautiful -- certainly something to aspire to in our future attempts at those very same projects.

The real magic of the weekend came in the workshop. Eight Scrollers -- rookie to expert -- were honored to get a day and a half to Judy's undivided help and attention. Judy's wisdom, expertise and delightful personality made for a wonderful couple of days together. All participants arrived at the workshop with their project cut out -- everyone with different woods -- which made each finished raccoon unique.

After the lessons from Judy, we are all now eager to dive into intarsia projects with a new perspective, advanced skills and more confidence. Hopefully some of us will  be fortunate enough to travel to Judy's workshop in Tennessee to continue learning at the feet of this intarsia master. As for how the North Star Scrollers will top this experience... well, we may just have to bring in similar 'rock stars' for the other avenues of scrolling that our members dabble in: fretwork, segmentation, portrait cutting, puzzle making, compound cutting, etc. Above all, we look forward to continuing to promote the art of scroll sawing and its many different ways of bringing out the incredible beauty of wood.