I WONDER WHAT THE ODDS ARE, that a community of some 22,000 would be home to two internationally-known, award-winning woodcarvers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling