Ashland Area Woodcarvers Share Skills and Continue Traditions

Emily C. Roush

The Ashland Beacon

 

   For the members of the Ashland Area Woodcarvers, the club is more than a hobby or social gathering. Since its founding in the early 1980s, it has been about keeping traditions alive. Historically, woodcarving was a common practice not just for art and aesthetics, but also for tools and household items. For the last 40 years, the Ashland Area Woodcarvers have shared their passion to grow interest in the practice.

    The group meets every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greenup County Extension Office located at 35 Wurtland Avenue in Greenup. The organization has met in several locations throughout its history, but it has called the extension office home since October. Their meetings are open to the public with people of all ages and skill levels invited to attend, observe, and learn. According to club member Allen Woods, “We really like to get new people. We especially love to get young people involved and build an interest in woodcarving.”

   While the second meeting of each month is reserved for discussing official club business, the others are a time and space to create. “Everyone just carves and exchanges ideas. People work individually, but some people bring patterns. Occasionally we all work on a piece together,” Woods described. He also emphasized that there is a type of carving for every interest, noting that the styles are as varied as the club’s 45 members. “We have people who do caricatures while others create realistic portrait style carvings. We have a lot of members who carve only animals.” He stressed that beginners and those with no woodcarving experience are welcome to attend meetings and join the Ashland Area Woodcarvers. “If someone wants to come in and try [woodcarving], we will sit down and work with them. We will provide materials and tools.” He also joked about not being intimidated by the materials, sharing that the first task assigned to him was carving sweet potatoes. “They carve a lot like wood and cut the same,” he recalled with a laugh.

   Woods has been carving since 2010 and has been a member of the Ashland Area Woodcarvers for six years. His journey as a carver began when the now retired police officer was off work sick. “I was laid up at home. I took a chunk of wood and decided to try carving it. The first piece I made was a pig,” he remembered. Woods never considered himself to be an artistic person, but he took to the artform. Woodcarving is also a family affair. He was introduced to it and the club by his father-in-law, and two brothers-in-law. His wife, Gina, is also a talented woodcarver and club member/officer. All have been or are currently members of the Ashland Area Woodcarvers. Spending time around them while they carved piqued his interest.   Woods is now a skilled carver who focuses on caricature style pieces. He and Gina have traveled as far away as Texas and Hawaii for woodcarving events. They even attended a woodcarvers’ cruise in the Caribbean. “Everyone would hang out and carve pieces while the ship traveled to different ports,” he recollected.

   Two of the goals of the Ashland Area Woodcarvers are outreach and education. Club members travel across the region displaying their works and competing in juried shows. In addition to teaching one-on-one to beginners during regular club meetings, members offer classes to the public throughout the year. The organization’s partnership with the Greenup County Extension Office is also leading to new opportunities including upcoming programing in the schools.

   The Woodcarvers also host two major registration-only classes each year with the next one coming up in May. Woods referred to it in jest at “Ashland Whittle Fest,” but he also discussed its increasing profile in the woodcarving community at large. “Every year it grows. We are now at full capacity with a wait list to attend. [Attendees] from as far away as Texas and Chicago are coming.” The Woodcarvers also bring in outside instructors from across the country to teach at these events. The most recent instructor was from Boulder City, CO. The upcoming class in May will be taught by a member of the Character Carvers of America. This is one of the most prestigious woodcarving organizations in the country. Although participation in the May class is capped, members of the public are welcome to come and observe. According to Woods, “anyone can stop by. We always have several people who like to watch.”

   Again, the Ashland Area Woodcarvers hold regular meetings every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greenup County Extension Office. Members of the public are invited to attend. For more information about the organization and its activities, people are welcome to contact club President Roy Prince at 606.465.1705 or Secretary/Treasurer Gina Woods at 606.923.0577. People can also learn more by visiting www.ashlandareawoodcavers.org.


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