Meridian Industrial

GEORGE MCLEAN

12/30/2022 | HOPE E. TREMBLAY

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Artist George McLean always enjoyed creating, but it was a hobby for most of his life.

The 69-year-old Stafford Springs, CT resident recalls his first works were small boxes made of popsicle sticks that he created at age 10.

“Then I began to draw with pencil, copying the newspaper artwork ads,” he said. “I moved on to pen and ink next. I would see a picture on Christmas cards and partially copy and enlarge it adding a few things as I went.”

Over the years, his art evolved, and today McLean concentrates on wood bowls and platters.

“I’ve only been turning for a few years, but I love creating something from nothing,” he said. “Lots to learn – and I haven’t quite gotten to the ‘perfect’ stage where I would consider selling. My wife and others would disagree. But, for now I’m mostly giving away my work.”

McLean’s favorite wood is what he calls F.O.G. wood – found on ground.

“There sure is a lot of it around,” he said. “I see a tree and immediately think what kind of bowl I could release. Sometimes I just start with nothing in mind and just go where the wood takes me. I’ve made other things besides bowls like goblets, a beer mug, a candlestick phone. My son has me working now on making measuring spoons and cups from wood for him. Much more of a challenge than I thought it would be.”

McLean grew up in Waterbury and in 1971 he joined the Navy at 17-years-old. He was sent to Operational Specialist school for Operational Intelligence. He was also trained in Electronic Warfare, Electronic Countermeasures/Electronic Counter-Counter measures warfare. He was assigned to an Aircraft Carrier, USS Ticonderoga-CVS-14, for Operation Intelligence.

“We left for Vietnam on May 24 from Hawaii,” he recalled. “I spent my 18th birthday on ‘Yankee Station’ in the Gulf of Tonkin. I was also part of the Apollo16, Apollo17 and Skylab missions. The Ticonderoga was the recovery ship. It was a very busy time.

“Not much in the way of art during those four years,” he said.

In 1979 McLean married his wife, Roberta. She said their wedding was ahead of the times. “We got married, in ‘79 on his Harley before biker weddings were cool,” she said. “We had friends, that we rode with, escort us to the Green in Wolcott.”

McLean was also ahead of the curve when it came to raising their sons.

“George was Mr. Mom,” said Roberta. “Our two boys never went to daycare. They were very lucky. He would attend the daytime activities . . . school . . . he did an awesome job, which I am sure our sons would agree with.”

The McLeans moved to Stafford Springs in 1980 to start a ServiceMaster franchise. He also spent time in construction, which sparked his interest in working with wood.

“I learned all I could,” he said. “I applied that knowledge to building an addition, 28 feet by 30 feet, on our house. The shop/garage was the bottom floor and above that was living space. It took me two years to complete by myself. I then started a custom furniture shop, building Armoires, entertainment centers, tables, etc. After a few years at that it became work, not fun.”

Roberta bought him a lathe and he made a few things, including their bed.

“I think my next pursuit was building and programing personal computers. Our two boys had the best looking and most powerful gaming machines, of course,” said McLean. “I built computers for half of Stafford Springs and all of our combined family members. Then came the cell phone. Bye bye computers.”

McLean was always looking for his next project or work of art, including himself.

“My next art was fitness,” he said. “My wife said I was obsessed. I began jogging and getting in shape. I studied to become a personal fitness trainer with the A.C.E. for almost two years. I was also learning how to sculpt my body by isolating certain muscles with various exercises. I completed the Block Island Triathlon in August of 2001 at 47 years old. Not to be pompous but I was in perfect shape. It burned me out. I stopped all exercise and peaked at 267 pounds. I’ve since lost the weight and am at 210 pounds.”

McLean’s passion for making wood bowls and more occupies much of his time today until he finds his next interest. For him, it’s all about making something beautiful and useful. “I just enjoy creating things,” he said.

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