Retiree turns hand to ‘intarsia’

‘The Knock,’ an example of King’s intarsia woodwork.

It’s called “intarsia,” and it’s an ancient style of woodworking that involves assembling wooden pieces mosaic-style into a piece of art.

Sort of like stained glass, but with wood.

It’s what Lloyd King, 84, of Amite County is doing now that he’s retired. He’s been a park superintendent, park builder, schoolteacher, vo-tech director and professional blade sharpener in his long and winding career.

“I made a long robin and I’m right back where I was born and raised,” said King, who lives a mile from Whittington United Methodist Church, where he displays his intarsia.

King has bachelor and master’s degrees in  industrial technology and recreation. He worked as superintendent at Percy Quin State Park for 11 years, taught school in Gloster, built a park in Hancock County and boat ramps and parks up and down the Pearl River, built and directed the Amite County Vocational-Technical Center, and served on the Amite County school board.

In more recent years he had a business as a professional blade sharpener, specializing in haircutting implements, both human and pet. That made sense since his wife Martha was a cosmetologist.

They traveled all over — Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee — sharpening blades at dog shows. The tools used for grooming pets and people are essentially the same when it comes to sharpening, King said.

Health problems — Martha’s back, Lloyd’s hip — brought all that to a halt. She closed her cosmetology shop and Lloyd sold his business.

Not one to sit still, he took up his new hobby and converted her beauty parlor into a wood shop.

“I said I’ve got to keep my mind operating because it goes around in circles,” King said.

So he learned the ancient art of intarsia, which the internet defines as “a woodworking technique that uses varied shapes, sizes and species of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture.”

Intarsia dates back to 7th-century Egypt at least.

King focuses on religious scenes and donates them to his church.

“It’s a public service, and the people have been good to me,” King said. “They’ve given me a good life, so I’ve got no regrets. I thought maybe I could inspire someone to want to come to church or maybe pick up the trade.”

He also does regular wood carvings as well as intarsia.  

His work includes Jesus as a boy doing carpenter work with his father Joseph, Noah’s hands releasing a dove, the cross on Easter Sunday, an angel trumpeting the news of Christ’s birth, Jesus knocking on a door and the Last Supper.

He also has a large carving of Jesus on the cross, and he designed pulpit hand rails, which Brent Sterling installed.

At his house down the road, King has a carving of a bald eagle outside, and a 12-foot totem pole in the backyard, both inspired by a trip to Alaska.

He’s got more pieces of intarsia planned and is currently working on Noah’s Ark in his wood shop. King uses 20-inch scroll saws and gets his wood from local and internet sources.

“That’s the critical part is finding wood you can work with, good wood,” he said.

Whittington UMC pastor Bobby Poole considers King’s work a blessing.

“The first Sunday that I showed up to preach there, I was in total awe of the life-sized carving of Jesus on the cross,” Poole said. “I’ve seen things like that in the grand cathedrals of Europe, but not in a small Methodist church. I’m still inspired by it every Sunday.

“One of the things that fires me up is when a church takes pride in their building and makes it a place that people enjoy worshipping in. Lloyd’s artwork does a lot to set the mood for worship, and I’m thankful that he has been so willing to share his unique gift with the body of Christ at Whittington.”

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