With his latest work, Jordan Straker’s artistic career has now reached near-biblical proportions.
A quarter of a century in the formative stage and six weeks in the making, his basswood carving of Dolly Parton’s coat of many colours is drawing rave reviews.
Straker, who admittedly has had a crush on the popular country singer since he was a kid, is sending the piece to Parton as a gift in March.
“I just had this dream and for 25 years it was something I always wanted to do and I needed to get out of my mind,” said Straker, who is well-known for the incredibly intricate detail of his carvings. “When I was younger I was watching Johnny Carson (The Tonight Show) and one time I saw Dolly and I just fell in love with her and she sang that song, Coat of Many Colors and that was it.”
It wasn’t long after that he sent a cartoon to the talk show host, a drawing of Carson and Parton. He eventually got it returned with Carson’s signature on it.
“The reason I did this (coat of many colours) is because I just thought nothing’s ever come of my pretend love affair with Dolly Parton. It’s just sort of another link in the chain from the Johnny Carson autograph,” he said.
Parton wrote the song, which was released in 1971, about a real piece of clothing her mother stitched together from rags given to the family who were very poor at the time.
According to the lyrics, as Parton’s mother stitched together the pieces of cloth she told her daughter of the story from the Bible about Joseph’s coat of many colours.
“I’ve always had this coat of many colours in my head, and what I thought about what it would look like and now it’s finished,” said Straker who has already turned down over $8,000 for the carving. “That (offer) made it a little bit complicated but a gift is a gift and this was never meant to be sold. I hope she likes it.”
He sent photos of the work in progress and the finished product to Parton’s staff, who he said were very impressed.
The wooden coat, which is on a hanger and has a leather shoe (with a hole in the toe, like the one in the song) slung over one shoulder is being sent to the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee to coincide with its spring opening.
“I know she’ll (Parton) be there then,” said Straker. “Her music company heard about this and said we can give it to her but I thought I would do it this way.
“I don’t know if Dolly actually knows she is getting it but everybody else knows.”
He decided not deliver it in person, adding he feels a little self-conscious about being there when someone receives his art as a gift.
“Besides, Dolly probably doesn’t even know I’m alive,” he added.
Straker did have one in-person encounter with the star at a concert she and Kenny Rogers put on a number of years ago.
Waiting in the wings near the stage he quickly handed her a poster he’d drawn of a cowboy with apples for eyes before sheepishly disappearing back into the crowd.
“She grabbed it and I just got scared and ran off,” he recalled with a smile. “She read the poster out loud on stage, it said ‘Dolly you are the apple of my eye.’”
Straker has no formal training and admits he had no interest in wood carving when he started.
His brother actually gave him a rotary woodworking tool to use as physical therapy for a hand injury.
But once he got going there was no turning back.
During his career, Straker’s work has received hundreds of carving awards, including best new artist, and multiple wins for best in show, collector’s choice and artist’s choice awards at the Calgary Stampede Western Art Auction. But, for now, the local artist is just glad to have checked off another of his bucket-list items, and if he’s lucky, may have carved out his own little niche in Dollywood.