Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Woodworking is Creative Outlet for Retired Veteran
When Army Veteran John Bixby retired nine years ago at the age of 55, he enjoyed the fruits of his labor for a while, but quickly grew bored.
“It takes about a month to wipe out the honey do list,” said Bixby, who lives in Eufaula, Okla. “You can only play so much golf and sail so much. I needed something to do.”
He started a real estate company and remodeled homes for several years.
“I went back to work and started buying Victorian homes and flipping them,” said Bixby. “That was kind of a creative outlet.”
When he retired for a second time, he turned to woodworking to fill his time. Almost every day, Bixby spends time in the woodworking shop at his home where he creates wooden artwork such as bowls, platters, utensils, plates and pens.
He said he enjoys the challenge of taking a raw piece of wood and turning it into a finished piece of art.
“What I like is that I start with just a square piece of wood,” he said. “Somewhere in there is a bowl or a vessel. You just have to find it. When you’re done, you’ve created something from just a blank piece of wood and it’s pretty fulfilling.”
Along with giving him a creative outlet, art helps Bixby cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From 1968 to 1969, he served in combat in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division.
“It’s a good way to release stuff,” said Bixby. “It’s therapeutic. I get down in my shop by myself. It just fills my day and gives me a lot to do. I just really enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s creative.”
Since Bixby also receives his health care through the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, he decided to enter his artwork in the annual Veterans Creative Arts Competition which was held Feb. 2-3 at the hospital.
The competition is held at VA facilities nationwide and includes more than 150 art, music, dance, drama and creative writing entries.
A national selection committee chooses first, second and third place winners among all of the entries. Select winners will be invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which will be held Oct. 12-19, 2015 at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Bixby, who is competing in the competition for the second year, hopes to be selected for the festival so he can display in a national venue.
“I’d love to see my art on a national level,” said Bixby. “That would be pretty cool.”
In the meantime, his artwork can be viewed and even purchased here in Oklahoma at the SOFA Art Gallery in McAlester and Our Favorite Place, an art gallery in Eufaula which sells “Made in Oklahoma” items.
A total of 19 Veterans participated in the 2015 Veterans Creative Arts Competition on Feb. 2-3 at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center and submitted almost 60 entries.
To learn how you can compete in the 2016 competition, contact Deborah Moreno at 918-577-4014 or visit www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov.