Richard Minato is game for anything when it comes to woodworking.
His table at the local farmers’ markets is laden with everything from a fiddle-shaped cribbage board to an English pub dice game to wooden puzzle keychains. His tabletop wooden basketball hoop, though, with its wooden springboard, handwoven net and orange ball, drew most of the attention Saturday at the Loon Bay Craft Market.
“If you can beat my record, it’s yours for free,” Minato told Stephanie Lalonde, as she tried to bounce the ball into the hoop. “Nineteen in a row.”
Intrigued, she took the challenge. It took Lalonde about 19 tries but she finally sunk one before borrowing money from her mother to buy the game. Her family was thrilled.
“I love this game, it’s so cool,” Haylee O’Brien, 16 said.
Minato, who lives north of the 103 Mile area, found himself designing crafts following a car crash in the winter of 1996. He was driving home from Kamloops when a car slid across four lanes of traffic, hitting him head-on. A former mechanic with the Ford dealership in 100 Mile, Minato lost much of the use of his right arm and had to spend 59 months in rehab.
Laid up, he taught himself how to use his left hand and started designing wooden crafts, with his primary tools being a scroll saw, drill press and reams of graph paper and a pencil. His first farmers’ market was 2009; he started going to the Loon Bay Craft Market in 2013. He returned to the markets this year after being laid off from his job at Dricos Entertainment in January.
“I spend a lot of time at the kitchen table with graph paper and a geometry set,” Minato, 60 said. “I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea in my head and I go out in the morning and start cutting up wood and see what turns out. I test all of them before I sell them.”
His inspiration for his unique crafts comes from life: his wooden English pub game, for instance, was inspired during a curling bonspiel in the early 1980s when a man brought one into the bar in Forest Grove. His cribbage boards, created in the shapes of musical instruments – he makes a fiddle, mandolin, banjo and treble clef – springs from his own love of music, which he also shares with visitors and vendors at the markets.
Every second weekend during the summer, Minato volunteers his time to play old country music on the fiddle and guitar at the Loon Bay Market. On alternate weekends, he often strums his country tunes at the 108 Heritage Market. Before COVID-19 happened, Minato also donated his time to play music at seniors’ birthdays at 100 Mile House’s Fischer Place, Mill Site Lodge and Carefree Manor.
“I used to go there to entertain them,” he said. “Because I’ve lived here for so long, a lot of residents I know because they knew my parents.”
Born in Ashcroft and raised in 100 Mile – he graduated from Peter Skene Ogden – Minato comes by his artistic ability honestly. His dad does needlepoint, his mom knits and his sister paints. As a child, he said, his favourite toy as a kid was a Meccano set. “I could sit there for hours and hours building stuff.”
Now he spends hours crafting in his garage. A cribbage board can take him up to three hours to make, depending on the complexity; his basketball net takes him 10 minutes to tie “if the cats leave me alone,” he said. His table also boasts wooden pins for shawls, letter openers and even a bird feeder shaped like an outhouse. However, Minato never makes more than six of anything, preferring to keep his woodworking fun and his crafts unique.
“I like to limit them,” he said. “Somebody wanted me to make something for them but they wanted 100 so it’s not going to happen.”
For everything he makes, Minato keeps a prototype at home for himself. Toys are his favourite creations, he said, because “they’re fun and I like to make things a little bit different. Maybe I just have a kid’s imagination.”