Judy MacNeal in her home on July 22 where she’s spent countless hours hand painting and hand sculpting lawn bowling bowls once destined for the dump. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo artist gives new life to old lawn bowls

Judy MacNeal has creatively upcycled 85 lawn bowls over the past few years

Using her imagination and creative flair, a Nanaimo woman has given new life to roughly 85 discarded lawn bowling bowls destined for the dump.

Judy MacNeal, 72, said her five-year long artistic endeavour started the very first day she joined the Nanaimo Lawn Bowling Club when she was asked by a member to paint “a little flower” on an old bowl.

“I took some of the bowls and did more than flowers,” she said.

Of the 120 bowls MacNeal took home, 52 currently decorate her house and about 35 are yet to be imagined. She’s also given many away as presents to friends and family over the years. Some of her first creations, she said, were gifted back to the club as table decorations while a few were specifically designed for special events like National Bowls Day.

“They would’ve just gone to the dump otherwise,” MacNeal said. “So I’ve been giving them new life. It’s given me something to do in the pandemic, for sure.”

Her vast range of design spans from Africa-inspired patterns and landscapes, to mandalas, to West Coast landscapes, bulldogs, portraits and garden settings.

Although taking inspiration from image sharing websites like Pinterest, MacNeal said she enjoys working from reference photos as well.

Having painted with acrylic on canvas for most of her life previously, learning to adapt to the curve of the bowl took practice, she said.

“It’s a little more difficult to paint on a round surface. Your whole perspective is different – to get it straight from top to bottom and going around the corner is a little different.”

Once comfortable with the painting and design aspect, she decided to add a third dimension and started sculpting with air dry clay, creating portraits and wildlife settings that jumped off the bowl. MacNeal said each bowl can take anywhere from seven to 15 hours to finish, depending on the intricacy of the design and complexity of the sculpture.

“Everybody loves them, especially if they’re bowlers … I’m trying right now to do a few for men. You know, you tend to do pretty things for women, but I have a few (sculpted) fish bowls.”

Although her work isn’t available to view or purchase online, MacNeal can be reached through e-mail at r.macneal@shaw.ca for inquiries.

READ MORE: City of Nanaimo announces 10 new pieces of temporary outdoor public art


mandy.moraes@nanaimobulletin.com

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Judy MacNeal in her home on July 22 where she's spent countless hours hand painting and hand sculpting lawn bowling bowls once destined for the dump. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

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