Carroll carvers will come together to display wooden sculptures of every size and shape this weekend at the Robert Moton Center for the annual Festival of Carving.
This is the 26th year for the Festival of Carving, which brings together carving experts with novices and community members to spread the word about the ancient art form and encourage others to pick up knives and start participating themselves. Pete Turner, with the Carroll Carvers, said many people have misconceptions about what it takes to be a carver, and one of the missions of the festival is to encourage others to try it out for the first time.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously; we have a lot of fun," Turner said. "Most people have never seen carving or don't understand too much about it. They picture an old man at the courthouse with a stick and a knife whittling on the front steps."
To help newbies to the art, organizers will hand out free soap carving kits to the first 25 children who come through the door. Turner said soap carving is a great way to get started because it doesn't require the sharp knives or protective gloves of wood carving. For those who are ready to leap to wood, he said, it's as simple as finding a stick and a sharp knife.
For Carroll Carvers member Junius Wilson, carving introduced itself to him, instead of the other way around. After a bookshelf that he had made snapped in two, Wilson said he suddenly recognized a shape of a person in the block of wood.
"I grabbed a kitchen knife and a hammer and just started carving it into what I saw," Wilson said. "When my wife came home she asked 'Where'd you get that? You can't even draw a stick man, how could you have made that?'"
Wilson said he's been carving sculptures out of whatever wood pieces he can find. Unlike many who come up with an idea and find the wood to match, Wilson said he needs to be struck by inspiration while looking at a piece of wood itself.
"If you gave me a plain piece of wood that was squared off, I couldn't do anything with it," Wilson said. "Give me something with knots that's jagged on the sides and I'll trace out what I see in my mind. Somehow it all comes together."
The event will feature 20 carvers at tables showing off their work, selling pieces, and offering commissions as well as 50 to 70 competition pieces, carving lessons, demonstrations and an appearance by guest carver Howard German.
Turner said German is one of the most accomplished carvers in the country, creating replicas of knives and swords out of wood that are indistinguishable from the real thing. German also creates pieces using the chip carving method, where intricate geometric designs are chipped out of the surface of the wood.
Classes will train guests on how to carve everything from figures to birds to abstract pieces. According to Turner, the Festival of Carving is the only celebration of the sort in Maryland, though some Pennsylvania clubs host their own events throughout the summer.
"This is a unique event, that features things people won't see everywhere," Turner said. "When families walk away, I hope we've conveyed our enthusiasm for this hobby and this art."
In the past, sculptures have included everything from life-sized alligators to intricate cut-throughs of medieval battles to wood-burnt designs. Judges will select the best designs for the blue ribbon award, while the audience will get to select the piece they like the most as well.