What do you get when a military veteran is also a veteran woodcrafter?
In Alisa Shvorin’s case, plenty of ribbons.
A Vietnam War-era Air Force veteran and resident at the Veterans Homes of California-Chula Vista, Shvorin won two major awards during the 2022 San Diego County Fair that concluded on the Fourth of July.
Shivorin’s intricate design — “The Guardian Dragon” — took home ribbons for Best of Show and 1st Place in the intarsia class. Intarsia is an art form popularized during the Italian Renaissance (1400-1600 AD), and involves inlays of precision-cut wood pieces.
“The dragon had 175 pieces,” Shvorin said. “It took me the better part of a year and a half to cut out all the pieces, sand them, fit them, and sand and fit them some more.”
Why a dragon?
“I love dragons,” she said. “I have tons of dragon tee shirts.”
With the ribbons came a $300 donor award from a local corporation.
“I gave the money to a student,” Shvorin said.
Shrovin did every bit of the work in the Chula Vista Home’s woodshop. She used nine different types of wood – Alder, Curley Maple, Aspen, Ebony, Padauk, Green Poplar, Red Cedar, Redwood, and Yellowheart – to create her masterpiece. Each type of wood’s color is natural. No stains added.
Shvorin spent three years in the Air Force, all stateside as a specialist working on flight instrumentation and was stationed at four different bases: Lackland in Texas, Chanute (since decommissioned) in Illinois, Nellis in Nevada, and Eielson in Alaska. She left the Air Force in 1976 and went to college on an Air Force scholarship at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she joined the ROTC.
It wasn’t until after she moved into the Veterans Homes of California-Chula Vista in 2015 that she developed a real interest in woodworking.
“Nothing more than fiddling around with it,” Shvorin said. “It was just something to do. I’m not into games. I like working with my hands and found that I liked working with wood.”
She perfected her craft and was among the Home’s crafters who entered 19 total pieces in the San Diego County Fair in 2019.
“We did very well,” she said. “We won a Best of Show for a wine rack one of the gentlemen here made.”
The COVID-19 pandemic nixed the fairs in 2020 and 2021. It returned this year, and so did Shvorin with the winning design – “The Guardian Dragon.”
She has the ribbons to show for it, guarded by a snarling wooden beast Shvorin made with her own hands.