Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Artist Creates Works of Art Out of ‘Puzzle’ Pieces
Larry Gardner shows off his intarsia piece featuring a bull rider.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021


The jigsaw puzzles that Larry Gardner used to put together as a kid still occupy a spot in the rafters of the garage at his Hailey home.

But, as an adult, Gardner has taken the concept of jigsaw puzzles to a whole other level.

Gardner spends hours in his garage, which he long ago turned into a woodworking shop, hand cutting reclaimed wood into various pieces, then fitting them back together with glue to create handsome three-dimensional works depicting wine, rodeo bulls, dragons and even Wylie Coyote.

This wall hanging is perfect for wine lovers.

Some works may have as many as 900 separate pieces of wood in them, some of those pieces mere slivers. His pendragons have 200 pieces.

“I can’t afford to lose a piece because it would be next to impossible to duplicate it,” he said.

Gardner will be among a hundred-plus artists who will showcase their art this weekend at the Ketchum Arts Festival. The Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 9-10, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 11, at Festival Meadows on Sun Valley Road between Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The wood inlaying Gardner does so magnificently is known as intarsia and it dates at least to the sixth century. It was popularized in the United States during the 1980s as woodworkers picked up their band saws and began cutting various shapes and species of wood, then fitting them back together.

Larry Gardner works on a Vancouver Canuck for the hockey lovers at the Wicked Spud.

Gardner has been doing it for 30 years, along with creating cheese boards and wine gift boxes with lights in them so they can use as bar lights once the wine is gone.

“I built some furniture for my wife and had scraps of wood left over so I started doing this and it became a passion of mine,” said Gardner who works at Silver Creek Supply.

Gardner pointed to a stack of wood pieces sitting in the middle of his workshop. All of it is reclaimed wood. Some were given him by woodworking shops that had no more use for the scraps.

“People ask me what I make. I say: I’m really good at making sawdust,” said Larry Gardner.

Larry Gardner assembles the pieces like a puzzle.

He calls his business “Sow’s Ear Woodworks.”

“The old adage is you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I’ve taken the sow’s ear—pieces of reclaimed wood—and I’m making a silk purse with it. I give the scraps of wood I can’t use to elderly people who have woodstoves. That keeps it going until it gets down to ash.”

In addition to the intarsia, Gardner has made pieces for nonprofits like Higher Ground and Swiftsure Ranch for fundraisers. He’s made a bench with a fire truck and dalmatians for the fire department. And he made a bench boasting deer to raise funds for a man who needed help paying his medical bills for cancer treatment.

“That’s so fun for me to be able to do something like that,” he said.

The pendragons each have 200 pieces, containing seven different kinds of wood.

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