Crafting a Legacy

December 19, 2017

Written by Juanita Fox

When Creed Coulson was 10 years old his dad purchased a Montgomery Ward lathe. After trying it out, Coulson was immediately hooked and he began transforming pieces of wood into functional art. His first project involved a piece of walnut he made into a two-tiered center place dish. Looking back, he says the project was advanced for a child because it included turning on a face plate and turning on centers. In the moment, he was just enjoying his dad’s new tool.

Through his teen and young adult years Creed developed his skills and continued to create projects from wood.

Creed graduated from Millersville University in 1959 and began working for Twin Valley School District as an industrial arts teacher in the metal shop in the fall of 1959. In 1975 he moved to directing AV services at Twin Valley High School. A natural born leader, he held a number of leadership and director level positions at Twin Valley including principal of the junior high school. In 1986 he became superintendent for Twin Valley School District.

Through the years woodworking offered a creative outlet for him. Although he was an educator by profession, Creed says, “My heart was always in woodworking.”

When he retired in 1996 he resumed his passion for woodworking. He started a new Christmas tradition when he created cherry wood tea carts for gifts for each of his three children. This was the start of new designs and unique gifts each Christmas for his children and grandchildren. Over the years gifts included cutting boards, casserole holders with maple initials inset in wenge wood, salt and pepper grinders (different sizes for the different generations), varied styles of jewelry boxes, candleholders and bowls. One Christmas he fashioned an intarsia nativity scene and gave it to his son.

His grandchildren also delight in the gifts he creates. When his granddaughter Kathy was planning her wedding for September 2015 he offered to make her a gift; he encouraged her to choose whatever she wanted. After considering her options Kathy requested a cherry tea cart, just like her father’s. Because nearly 20 years had passed since he made the first set of carts, he had some trouble accessing parts. A Saturday drive through rural Lancaster County led him to an Amish woodworker in Quarryville who was able to supply the wheels and hardware he needed. He carefully crafted the cart and was honored when Kathy and her new husband Jason used the cart to display their wedding cake at their reception.

Through their retirement Creed and his wife, Lena, lived in nearby Morgantown. When their property became too much to maintain, a friend recommended they consider Garden Spot Village. Describing their first tour, Creed says, “When we got to the woodshop, the decision was easy.”

He immediately joined the woodshop after moving to Garden Spot Village in 2016, excited for the opportunity to use his woodworking skills in new ways. As he looked around the woodshop, he noted that each member had their own special niche. He also noticed a pile of scrap wood that didn’t have a purpose or use for other projects. He began to experiment and think about what his niche could be… and could it include the scraps?

Drawing on the lathe and turning skills he honed since age 10, Creed pieced together some scraps and created a unique, pieced and turned bowl. It was a brand new idea; designed without a pattern – just a vision to use scraps to create something new.

He fine-tuned the design and created bowls for his children for Christmas. His children’s enthusiasm for their gifts spurred Creed to create more bowls. He donated several to local nonprofit organizations for fundraising efforts and created others for friends and acquaintances who special ordered them.

Aware of his new design and pending orders, other woodworkers in the woodshop fill his workbench with 12” and longer scraps. Each bowl takes 20 hours of labor and he supplements the scraps with beautiful red heartwood from South America.

Creed’s woodworking is one facet of the legacy he is building. He says, “I like to think my children and grandchildren will have something to remember me.” The best part? His legacy increases each day as he shares his designs with more and more people.

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