Chips off of an old block
As a tide of "getting back to our roots" sweeps the country, woodcarving is gaining in popularity. The phenomenon will be in evidence this weekend at the 14th annual Sangamon Valley Woodcarvers Show, dubbed "Go Ahead, Make My Day!" Carvers will converge to display and sell their works and teach their craft, and vendors will offer tools, wood, and other materials.
The organization, which meets monthly at the Williamsville Senior Center, boasts about 60 members in central Illinois, ranging from twentysomethings to octogenarians. Some members who are retired, such as Bill White and Ken Sullivan, visit area high schools and grade-school art classes to demonstrate and teach their craft, using Styrofoam with the youngest participants and moving up to bars of soap and then wood with older ones. They also visit senior centers.
Both days this weekend, the carvers will offer how-to seminars, including sessions for beginning carvers and kids. Chainsaw artist Brad Hunzinger, from Morris, will offer log-carving demonstrations. Saturday will feature a speed-carving contest in which participants will be given a block of wood and 90 minutes to carve to a theme announced when the clock is started. SVW member Carl Greenwood recalls, "Last year, it was 'anything Disney.' What it will be this year is anyone's guess, but it's always a popular part of the show."
With no need for canvas, frames, or, in some cases, paint, the form looks simpler than it is. Fine steel blades, rasps, and other tools of the craft range from low-cost basics to "sky's the limit." Most experienced carvers work primarily with basswood, a malleable, lightweight wood with a dependable grain and good carving potential.
"Carvers come in all varieties," says the 73-year-old Greenwood. "Some paint their work with acrylics, oils, or simple stains. Many specialize and carve ducks or faces or figures. I do serious work sometimes, but I truly enjoy caricatures like the one I created for this year's show. This way, I have someone to talk to in the basement shop, and he never disagrees with me."
"Go Ahead, Make My Day" runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4 and 5, at the Illinois Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Admission is $2 per person or $5 per family. Children ages 12 and under are admitted free of charge. For more information, call Lee or Betty Legg at 217-546-8792.