“I think he was an inspiration to others,” said Mr Oliver’s younger sister Pearl Bell. “I really do, because he’d just take a telephone pole or something and saw it up into blocks. You’d just see a piece of wood one day, and the next day he’d have it all done.”
Ms Bell said her brother built himself a home in Winsloe, PEI, and there proceeded to fill his front yard with his folk art, primarily carvings of birds. There he made a name for himself. For the most part his work was appreciated, but Ms Bell said not everyone was impressed.
“He carved mostly wild geese,” said Ms Bell. “Some people thought it was great, but the people in the community didn’t think it was great, because they weren’t used to seeing someone’s front lawn covered in carved geese. He must have done thousands of pieces. It passed the time for him. He had to be busy.”
And Mr Oliver was a busy man.
As Ms Bell recounts, Lloyd began with taxidermy in his teenage years, growing up near Huntley. He fixed up an old chicken coop and used it as his work shop. People would bring him animal skins, and he’d put his sewing machine to work. He later found work as an electrician, a plumber, a mechanic, and finally he went to Red Deer, Alberta to become a minister, later spent time in St John, New Brunswick as an ordained minister. Ms Bell thinks it was when he moved to Charlottetown later on, becoming semiretired, that his carving really flourished. From there he moved to Winsloe.
“He started in the 70s I guess,” said popular Island folk artist Karras Jeffery, who owns and operates of Back Road Folk Art. “Before that, people just did folk art for the hell of it. No one really sold anything, or there was no market to sell folk art. When Lloyd started carving, there was a market for it. He was one of the first people who sold some stuff.”
Mr Jeffery knew Lloyd for 12 years. Mr Jeffery makes a living from collecting “junk” and putting it to artistic use. He said Mr Oliver always had plenty of junk at his home, and Mr Jeffery often bought from Lloyd. They would take the time to talk about their common crafts.
“He sold a lot of stuff,” said Mr Jeffery, referring to Mr Oliver’s success with marketing his folk art. “He was in Winsloe, and there’s a lot of traffic there. I don’t know how many decoys he had in his front yard; it was unreal.”
When Mr Oliver passed, Mr Jeffery collected some of his work and created a display at Back Yard Folk Art. The collection includes signs, old articles written about Lloyd, pictures, and even some of his carvings.
“I didn’t want him to be forgotten, and like I said, I like his stuff,” said Mr Jeffery. “I thought I’d buy his stuff and display it so it doesn’t become lost.”
To this day, Mr Oliver’s carvings can be seen on eBay, the sellers asking for $5,000 in some cases, said Ms Bell. She said Mr Oliver moved to Inverness from Winsloe, and again continued his folk art.
“He was brilliant,” said Ms Bell. “He could talk to anyone about anything...anything from religion to plumbing. He loved to talk to people. Everybody loved him. He was kind hearted. You couldn’t help but be kind to him.”
She said he made an impression on people even without his folk art. He was installing plumbing and doing electrical work in West Prince before either services were commonplace. He would help people, and be understanding if they couldn’t pay him right away for his work. Ms Bell was told by people at the funeral home Lloyd’s funeral was one of the largest they’ve ever hosted.
“I think he had a wonderful legacy,’ said Ms Bell. “When people hear I was Lloyd’s sister, they say, ‘oh he put our furnace in! He put our lights in!’ and they all thought the world of him. He was a great brother.”
Lloyd Oliver passed away Friday, July 12 of this year at the age of 90.