Metro Carvers show off woodworking skills March 17-18

By: Andy Kozlowski, | All | Published March 9, 2012

COME SEE THE SHOW

The Metro Carvers of Michigan 32nd annual Woodcarving Show will be at Madison Place, 876 Horace Brown Drive, south of 13 Mile, across from Lamphere High, between I-75 and John R, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, and
10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 18. Admission is $4 per person; children
ages 12 and under get in free.

MADISON HEIGHTS — It’s amazing what can be made with wood.

Sculptures so real they could pass for taxidermy; fantastically twisted houses built out of bark; stunning portraits made with scorch marks — the list goes on and on.

To see for yourself what the craft has to offer, consider carving out time for the Metro Carvers of Michigan 32nd annual Woodcarving Show.

 Mike Murdock of Troy paints a hand-carved cedar waxwing, which he plans on displaying at the Metro Carvers of Michigan 32nd annual Woodcarving Show March 17-18. Last year, he won Best in Show for his sanderling sculpture.

Mike Murdock of Troy paints a hand-carved cedar waxwing, which he plans on displaying at the Metro Carvers of Michigan 32nd annual Woodcarving Show March 17-18. Last year, he won Best in Show for his sanderling sculpture.

The gathering of skilled woodworkers and art enthusiasts is the largest for the Metro Carvers of Michigan, a satellite group of the Michigan Woodcarvers Association. About 2,000 attendees are expected from all over Michigan and a couple of outlying states, such as Ohio and Kentucky.

Expect a wide variety of artists working in wood burning, bark carving, chip carving, relief carving, “carving in the round” (three-dimensional) and more. There will also be booths selling art, texts and tools of the trade, as well as others that put up their works purely for display purposes.

Mary Jo Brown of Warren, event chair, said she’s fascinated by the many ways one can approach woodcarving.

“It’s not just pine. You can use walnut and cedar, and basswood and butternut, and all of them have different qualities and hold different aspects of the subject,” she said. “Some hold more detail than others, so when you’re looking at what you want to do, you look at the wood and think, for instance, will you paint the wood, or leave it natural.

“I tend to leave things in the natural state, because I like the wood,” Brown continued. “I’ve always been attracted to sawmills because I love the smell of the wood, and this goes with that. You’re creating something out of wood that looks like a square, and next thing you know, you have a person or a plate, or a poster or a cross, or a wood burning of an animal or whatever you think that wood is telling you to make.

“You are literally limited only by your imagination,” she concluded. “Just look at what Mother Nature is showing you: That’s where you will get your patterns. Mother Nature shows you all kinds of things; all you have to do is open your eyes and look at it, and in a different way: ‘Can I put that on a piece of wood, and what kind?’”

The many answers to that question will be seen on Saturday morning, when competition judging will take place.

Participants nominate their best pieces for judging by a panel of three in over 50 categories. The artists are kept unknown to the judges, so there is no bias. There are also no divisions, allowing rookies to compete with veterans, which makes it all the more impressive when a rookie wins first, second or third place.

The best in each category is awarded a blue ribbon. The blue ribbon winners are then eligible to win Best of Show. In addition, one artist is awarded the People’s Choice award, as voted upon by the public.

Also on Saturday, around 2:30 p.m., the kids can try their hand at soap carving, a safe alternative involving bars of soap and special carving tools to shape them.

“The children really like it — they had a lot of fun last year,” Brown said. “I have a scout troop coming to earn their carving badge. They get to keep the kit and keep their carving.”

There are usually multiple seminars on Saturday and Sunday. There is also a theme. Last year’s theme was Woodstock, while this year’s is St. Patrick’s Day. Attendees are encouraged to dress up and decorate their tables accordingly.

People can also buy raffle tickets to try to win a donated carving of their choice, and they don’t even need to be present when the winner is decided; the event organizers will contact them at the phone number they submit with the ticket. There are also door prizes throughout the day, though you have to be present to claim those.

Stay awhile and you may even be inspired to try the craft yourself. At last year’s event, many of the carvers were professionals in technical fields who never fancied themselves as the expressive type. They couldn’t grasp 2D art with a pencil or paintbrush, but given a knife and some wood to shape and form in 3D, they fell in love.

“You never know until you stop to smell the roses and pick up a knife,” said Paul Blanchard of Rochester Hills, president of the Metro Carvers of Michigan. “I know people who are heavy into computers, do programming and all that, and suddenly they pick up a knife and they have a talent for it, even though they always thought of themselves as an engineer or computer person.

“I’ve seen that numerous times,” he said. “‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’ and it’s something completely opposite what they do all the time, yet it unleashes that creativity.”

For more information about the Metro Carvers of Michigan, a satellite group of the Michigan Woodcarvers Association, visit http://www.metrocarvers.com. The Metro Carvers of Michigan meet the second Tuesday of every month at Helen Keller Elementary School at 12 Mile and Campbell in Royal Oak. For more information, including the locations of individual carving sessions near you, email miwood carvers@yahoo.com.