He’s a quiet man, prone to long silences and sudden disappearances. Notoriously shy and uncomfortable in groups of peers as well as strangers, he is often asked, “Where did you come from? Where have you been?”, even though he has been on the scene for some twenty years now. “Who are you?”
His name is Leon Lacoursiere and he comes from Delmas in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Born in 1941, the tenth of thirteen children, he grew up in the tiny francophone farming community just outside of North Battleford. And being an artist was never his dream, although he had a great interest in it.
“All I wanted was an education so I could get less physical work and have things a little easier in life.” But his teachers noticed that he was good with his hands and often got him to do the drawings and other special projects for class. At school at College Saint-Jean in Edmonton he could often be found sitting in the background somewhere carving something new. If a bar of soap went missing in the dorm, the others didn’t have far to find it, transformed into a beautiful mermaid or some other fantastic creature. But his school desk was more a work bench than a place to learn so he packed up his books and moved back to the farm.
He married, had children and farmed until 1980 when he sold his farming equipment and went to work first as a goldsmith’s apprentice and then as a cabinet maker. He continued to carve little things here and there until 1982 when in the interest of learning spindle work and on the advice of a cousin he began attending seminars held by the Saskatchewan Woodworkers Guild. Stephen Hogbin and Del Stubbs were just two of some well known instructors at that time. He met Michael Hosaluk at one of the seminars and the two formed a lasting friendship. Lacoursiere credits Hosaluk’s encouragement for making him the artist he is today.
“Whatever profession you’re in, it is a continuous learning process. It would be a dark cloudy day when you think you know it all. You might as well put away tools because you’re no good to yourself or to others. And don’t give up when things go wrong. When a piece turns out to be not so good or a failure, it’s not a total loss. You learn from it. You need failure to learn.”