Sometimes it pays to use both sides of the brain, and Andy Leonard has spent a lifetime doing just that. Leonard left his private practice as a urologist in 1993. He was medical director of East Jefferson General Hospital for several years and is now an associate medical director for health and insurance companies.
Leonard and his wife, Judy, live in the Bayou Liberty area, and their home was designed by architect Albert Ledner, one of the last students of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“He designed my home in New Orleans using the basic principles of organic architecture espoused by Wright and carried those ideas over into the present home in Slidell,” Leonard explained. “Every room has a view of nature with windows or skylights integrating nature into the fabric of our lives.”
The youngest of three brothers, Leonard grew up in Pensacola, Florida. His father was a self-employed businessman, and his mother was a nurse who later gave up her career to raise the family.
“She was a talented painter, organist and pianist,” Leonard said. “My brothers and I were strongly influenced by her talents and pursuits.”
Woodturning, the process of turning wood and shaping it in a unique design, is his greatest passion. Although the design process intrigues him, he gains much pleasure from shaping the wood on the lathe.
“It was my first serious art form, and I think we tend to like best what we do best,” he said. “I have a special interest in teaching woodturning and have had students from time to time.”
Metalsmithing or designing jewelry is another craft he learned when applying metal accents to his woodturning projects.
“I did some workshops and liked it,” Leonard explained, adding he is self-taught from the Internet and developing his skills. “The design aspects are fascinating, and I enjoy doing precision work.”
He works from two small studios in separate buildings on the property, one for the woodturning and the other for metalsmithing.
He gives back to the community in a variety of ways that include serving on the board of the Olde Towne Arts Center. His artwork will be on display as one of nine artists’ works in OTAC’s upcoming “What a RELIEF” exhibit, opening 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Slidell Cultural Center, 2055 Second St.
The Leonards’ property is filled with natural gardens tended by Leonard’s wife. Herbs, blueberries, figs and even water gardens add to the creative spirit.
Leonard said his passions are influenced by nature and he has developed a serious interest in honeybees. His enthusiasm has spread across the community as he has introduced beekeeping to others, emphasizing the role bees play in the foods we eat.
“The relationship of bees to the flowering plants is, of course, a strong connection,” he said. “I enjoy learning as much as possible about the little critters and read about them all the time.”
Looking out the kitchen window is a vista of the nearby outlet to Bayou Liberty. He and his wife enjoy cooking together and were recently introduced to molecular cooking.
“It’s new, interesting and gives fresh insights into the things we traditionally do in the kitchen” Leonard said. “In its simplest form, it brings the knowledge of physics and chemistry into the cooking process to let us understand what we do and then to allow us to create food not possible before.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Leonard also enjoys making cheese and baking.
“Especially bread, and I insist on kneading by hand,” he said. “Mother’s influence again.”
What’s in the future for Leonard? What new hobby might he pursue?
He recently worked on making and marbling his own paper.
“I also tried my hand at spinning of wool fiber into yarn under the tutelage of a master spinner,” he said. “I’m not sure I will pursue spinning beyond an experience or two, but who knows?”
Deborah Burst writes about people behind the scenes of organizations and events in St. Tammany Parish. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.