Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Carv-Fest brings together novices to pros in Faribault August 13, 2012

I WONDER WHAT THE ODDS ARE, that a community of some 22,000 would be home to two internationally-known, award-winning woodcarvers.

That would be Faribault. And they would be Marvin Kaisersatt and Ivan Whillock.

Woodcarvers, from novice to pros, participated in Carv-Fest 2012. Here are students and instructors in a Saturday morning session.

The carvings of these two gifted Minnesota artists, and gifted doesn’t even seem to begin to fit their talent, were among art displayed at the August 9 – 11 Carv-Fest 2012 which drew woodcarvers, from beginners to seasoned carvers, to Faribault.

The intricate chip carving of Marty Leenhouts of Garden City, Minnesota.

It may be summer, but Santa showed up in a woodcarving and classes at the festival.

Imagine if this had been a hand instead of a glove…

I roamed the fest on Saturday, seriously impressed by the intent concentration of the attending woodcarvers, the intricacies of the carvings, the variety of art created and the fearlessness in putting sharp tools to wood. No wonder they wear gloves.

Marv Kaisersatt sketched out the character he was teaching his students to carve on Saturday.

I didn’t know any of the carvers, except Marv, whom I interviewed in 2009 for a short magazine article which certainly should have been much longer had space allowed. He impressed me then for the simple life he lives in an upstairs apartment in downtown Faribault, carving caricatures. I can’t even describe talent of his level. But I can describe a man who is humble and funny, engaging and content with the creative process of sketching, shaping clay models and carving.

This retired math teacher also impressed me in that interview with the fact that he doesn’t sell his woodcarvings, choosing instead to occasionally donate his caricatures, carved from blocks of basswood, to nonprofit fundraisers.

Marv Kaisersatt assists a student in his class.

On Saturday, Marv circulated among his students, advising them on carving a Minnesotan (I presume) dressed for winter in stocking cap and chopper mittens, oversized boots weighing down his feet.

Marv gave me a polite nod and then it was all business teaching the students lucky enough to learn under his guidance.

A snippet of Ivan Whillock’s incredible, detailed and realistic carving.

Whillock, whose woodcarvings are the polar opposite of Marv’s work, wasn’t teaching. But given his woodcarving family organizes Carv-Fest, I expect he had more than enough to keep him busy. He carves religious and secular sculptures and reliefs, works of art that grace places like churches (including mine, Trinity Lutheran) and libraries (including Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault).

Whillock and his family are the key organizers of Carv-Fest which draws woodcarvers from all over.

A stunning, three-dimensional carving by Ivan Whillock.

Both men teach at Ivan Whillock Studio. They’ve written books and created patterns and developed an appreciative following of admirers across the world.

And if you saw their work, you would understand why they are so beloved among woodcarvers and those of us who wouldn’t dare pick up a knife for fear of slicing away a fingertip.

A carver brought his handcarved toolbox to a class on Saturday morning.

Just another example of the woodcarvings on display during the festival.

These students were hammering and chiseling away during a class, making quite a racket in the ice arena/fest site.

The step-by-step process to woodburn a wolf as taught by Nancy Dardis of  Dardis Designs, Bloomington.

A pheasant in wood, foreground, and students in class, background.

Learning the art of chip carving.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling