Nanaimo lawn bowler turns sport’s ‘bowls’ into art


NANAIMO, B.C. –


Judy MacNeal will never forget the first day she tried lawn bowling.


She learned that the balls were called bowls, and that they didn’t roll straight. And then, one of the members of the Nanaimo Lawn Bowling Club threw Judy a metaphorical curve ball.


“She said, ‘Maybe you could paint a little flower on there,’” Judy says, recalling the woman pointing to her bowl.


The woman wondered if Judy could put a blossom on an old bowl after hearing that Judy had had a career in graphic design that began with creating pages as a paste-up artist for Sears catalogues during the late 1960s.


“You got all the little photographs and you had to cut them out with scissors and stick them on with rubber cement glue,” Judy recalled.


The pre-computer design process sounds similar to Judy’s post-game bowl transformation.


Instead of simply painting a little flower on the sports equipment, Judy used clay to turn the bowl into a bountiful bouquet.


“You have to make each petal out of clay, paint it, and stick it on,” Judy laughs, simplifying a creative process that can take up to 15 hours.


Judy was so inspired by covering that first bowl with bespoke flowers, she threw a curve ball of her own, after seeing a shed-full of used bowls at the club that were destined for the dump.


“I took home 120 bowls!” Judy laughs.


Judy set-up a studio in her garage, where she proved to be a prolific bowl painter.


“They were a good thing to have on hand during the pandemic,” Judy laughs.


Judy has painted about 80 bowls so far, ranging from blond bowls (Marilyn Monroe), to dog bowls (a pair of bull dogs), to Christmas bauble bowls (Santa Clause and a nativity scene).


Dozens of others (including bejewelled mandalas) were given as gifts to friends and family.


“I have about 35 to 40 (unpainted) bowls left,” Judy says before laughing. “Then (the club’s) shed will have to be cleaned out again!”


Perhaps Judy will use her catalogue-creating skills to sell them. After being bowled-over by the pleasure of making them, she has no intention to throw another curve ball and stop.


“I’ve learned to do your own thing,” Judy smiles. “And make yourself happy by doing it.”  



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