Ferenc Gregor, of Szobrasz Studio in Mount Airy, teaches students how to carve natural materials. (Michel Elben / Carroll County Times)

Using small hand tools to manipulate a warthog's tusk Sunday afternoon, Rose Sims learned the art of carving natural materials under the guidance of Szobrasz Studio owner Ferenc Gregor.

"One of the greatest aspects of doing this is being able help and nurture other artists to find their way," Gregor said.


Sims, an artisan who lives in Gambrills, said she took the class to learn some new skills.

"I make a lot of handcrafted items and wanted to add another skill to what I do," Sims said. "I really like working with organic materials."

Gregor has been carving with natural materials for more than 30 years.

"I couldn't afford oil paints, so I found something else I could work in," Gregor explained. "I found a piece of old antler and a dremel, and started carving."

Gregor explained that working with natural materials can be very challenging because "you have to create a relationship with the material itself. You have to understand it has its own characteristics and you can't force it."

People often have a misconception that the natural materials he uses are elephant tusks but they aren't, Gregor said. He works with warthog tusks and hippo tusks sourced from Department of Fish and Wildlife regulated culling programs.

Gregor said he's a big advocate for education in his craft because "it's rare anyone teaches this stuff." He uses a hands-on approach to teach his students about the basic techniques of carving and the materials.

"I try to nurture their own personal techniques and try to bring out everyone's individuality," Gregor said.

Sims said she appreciated the one on one time she received in class.

"(Gregor's) teaching is very direct and very personal," Sims said.

Working on a knife handle, knife maker Robert Stumphy said he attended the class to increase his profits.

"It allows me to go in a different direction and increase my price. A lot of people really enjoy the more artistic knives," said Stumphy, of Jefferson.

Stumphy said Gregor is "a fountain of information."

"He teaches you how to use the tools and helps you with your technique," Stumphy said.


Musician Liz Brewster, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, said she signed up for the class to expand her horizons.

"I'm trying more physical arts, and this is something completely different than what I've done before," said Brewster.

Brewster said she appreciated the instant gratification she got from the class.

"You can see your creation as it's happening. I'm impressed with what I've been able to do," Brewster said. "His instruction makes it seem easy. Within 20 minutes, he had us working and was showing us the basics of the tools. It's definitely hands-on learning."

For more information about Szobrasz Studio, visit www.szobrasz.com.