Woodcarvers compete at national level

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 12, 2019

The buzz of power tools and the hum of friendly chatter filled the woodcarving class at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County on Friday.

Richard Chexnayder is a participant of the class and during this week’s class he could be seen sanding the body of a rough cut wooden duck. A carved duck begins with a block of wood. Woodcarvers use a pattern to cut the top and sides of the duck from the block. Then they carve the duck down with Dremel tools or a knife.

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For four years, Chexnayder gave up carving ducks, because he could no longer stand at his band saw and cut the duck body and head. One of his woodcarving friends offered to cut the ducks for him, so once again Chexnayder is able to transform wood into a life like representation of feathers and beaks.

“I’m able to get a little bit of my life back,” Chexnayder said.

Chexnayder was one of seven woodcarving students from the Senior Center’s class who won ribbons for their artwork at the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers and Collectors Guild show in Mandeville, La. held Oct. 5 and 6.

Students from the class regularly take their work to local or regional art shows, said the class’ teacher John Houston. The show in Mandeville is the second largest woodcarving show in the country, and attendees came from all over the world, Houston said.

Participating in art shows lets the students compare their work to that of other artists, learn new techniques and enjoy the fun of competition, Houston said.

Ribbon winner Linda Bowen had never tried woodworking before she began attending the Senior Center’s class in 2016, she said. Now, she’s carved figures representing egrets and wolves and has been able to sell walking sticks.

Bowen’s piece in the Mandeville show featured an alligator in a habitat full of fish and crawfish.

“I love doing the habitat. Sometimes I like doing that as much as the carving,” Bowen said.

The habitat tells the story, she said.

Ribbon winner Gene Bergmark had long crafted wooden furniture and toys before he took up duck carving in the center’s woodcarving class. When he retired, he was advised to keep his feet and his mind busy. Carving ducks keeps his mind busy, he said.

New attendees in the class are always welcome, whatever their carving experience, Houston said.

“It’s not for everybody, but if it’s something you want to do, we can teach you how,” Houston said.