Darryl Audette owes a debt of gratitude to a teenage bully. It all began when Audette was fourteen. He ran into a library to escape a bully. The bully became distracted by an issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, in which miniature sculptor Sheperd Paine was spotlighted. The bully and Audette shared an admiration for the featured work, and became fast friends. Meanwhile, Audette was hooked. In fact, Audette was so transfixed with Paine’s work that he looked up the artist’s phone number in Chicago. The artist encouraged Audette to travel to Chicago for an upcoming miniature event. So the teenager bought a suit, and off he went. Audette has been creating miniatures ever since.
“Do you want the short story or the long one?” he says with a laugh. He was living with his grandmother. She wore dentures, and had a lot of trouble with pain. “She was always filing them, because they didn’t fit.” Audette could not imagine someone living with that kind of discomfort. So on the advice of some relatives, he sought out a denturist. “I talked a dentist, Dr. Z. F. Trojan. He was a crown and bridge dentist.” After a short introduction, Audette told Trojan about his passion for miniatures. Trojan asked him to model an incisor. “I went into his lab, and I picked up a big lump of plaster and I carved him [what] I thought it looked like a duck’s foot.” Trojan must have disagreed, because he spent the next six years working with Audette. “It ended up being a six-and-a-half-year apprenticeship and internship. And I was the last one in Manitoba to do it.” Audette is one of only two denturists practicing in Manitoba who trained with dentists. After Audette, the apprenticeship program was cancelled. The two-year diploma program was created, and prospective denturists went to college.
Audette thoroughly enjoyed his studies with Trojan. “He was a master crown and bridge dentist,” he says with admiration. He calls it a stroke of luck and grace that he found Trojan. “He was an awesome, awesome man, and a brilliant dentist.” “They say the student will find the teacher when the time’s right,” he says. “I just like what I do.” It is a marvel how well his two passions have merged. “I always wanted to be a professional artist,” he says. He began sculpting and painting as a teenager, and still enjoys it today. “I’ve been lucky enough to sell what I do; it’s a hobby but a very serious hobby.” Audette travels to attend miniature conventions and competitions every year. “I’ve made life-long friends.” His patients benefit from his particular brand of artistry. “I don’t know how many times patients have asked me to sign their teeth,” he says. Audette returned from a competition in Chicago about a year-and-a-half ago. There was an article in the local newspaper about him, and one of his patients came into the office. “She said, ‘I want my teeth signed’. I made up a certificate of authenticity,” he laughs out loud with the memory. “She was a lot of fun.” Audette turns serious as he says, “To me, no one should know that you have false teeth.” Often, he painstakingly sculpts each tooth individually for his patients, creating an exact replica of their natural teeth. He believes that each patient should get the very best possible care. Perhaps it is Audette’s unique talent that is keeping him so busy. He believes in pride of quality. He works ten-hour days in the clinic. “It’s anything but quiet,” he says. Audette no longer lives with his grandmother, but he was able to create dentures for her. He empathizes with his patients. “Age and opportunity had me on the radio a couple of years ago,” he says. “And there was such a demand they asked me to come back.” When all was said and done, he had taken calls on three different radio shows. “It was nice to actually address people with denture problems.” He took many phone calls from people on-air as well as during commercial breaks. He hopes that he helped some of those callers. “It’s interesting how you sort of just luck into something,” he says. “I applied to three American universities for art.” Perhaps his art career has actually been flourishing all this time. His daily lab work should be included in his art portfolio. “But,” he says with a laugh, “I don’t sign teeth.”
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