The North Carroll Senior Center Carvers have been meeting for seven years. They meet Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon at the center in Hampstead. Harry Mancha started the group in 2010, but when he moved to Florida, he asked Pete Turner to take over the group instruction. Between 15 and 20 people meet each week to learn and carve. There is no charge to be in the group. There is only a $1 donation for supplies.
The group was looking for a project that they could work on together and decided to carve a dance hall scene that morphed into Chip’s Honky Tonk Saloon. The name Chip is from a wood chip.
Each carver created a character or a sign, a piece of furniture, things for the wall or whatever they thought would add to the project. There is also a guitar, violin, bar, mirror, poker players and more. Tuner, group instructor, calls it a “rowdy group” that the seniors carved.
Most of the wood the carvers use is bass wood because it has a nice straight grain and although it is a hard wood, it is soft enough for carving. They worked on the project for a year. They have carved 26 characters and painted the details with acrylic paint.
“A couple years ago we carved a Noah’s Ark that was raffled off as a fundraiser for the Senior Center,” Turner said.
Junius Wilson is one of the carvers in the group. Wilson has attended the group for six years. Most of his carvings are large sculptures including faces, landscapes, animals, and creatures in panoramic displays. Years ago, Wilson was an electrician, but when he fell off a scaffold sustaining lifelong injuries, he had to quit work. Wilson was depressed for almost 20 years.
But when a doctor recommended that he do some activities, Wilson’s life transformed. At first, Wilson built a bookcase, but it collapsed. However, he noticed a piece of wood that had an image in it and he began to carve. It became a multi-faced image that had carvings around the wood. About the same time Wilson met Tuner at the wood carvers show. Wilson entered his carving and won second place.
Wilson began to carve more things and his depression left.
“My whole life changed when I started to carve,” Wilson said.
In 2018, Wilson was invited to show at the Creative Alliance show held at the old Patterson Park Theater in Baltimore. He has also shown at Wards Art Center in Salisbury and has had his sculptures on exhibition at senior centers around the state of Maryland. Wilson has had his carvings at the show at the Robert Moton Center in Westminster. He also had a solo show at the Bykota Senior Center in Towson.
Charlotte Gyory is another member of the North Carroll Senior Center carving group. She has been carving for about 10 years. Gyory had never carved before but when she saw an article in the newspaper about the group forming, she decided to join. Gyory specializes in cottonwood bark. The bark is softer than the trunk of the tree and because of arthritis, she uses cottonwood exclusively now. Gyory likes to carve whimsical things. She recently finished 10 nightlights that resemble little artistic houses.
Gyory also carves cottonwood bark houses. Since she has collected gnomes for years, she considers them gnome houses. First, she takes a hunk of cotton wood bark that must come off dead cottonwood trees. Some of the wood is 100 or more years old. She cleans off the outer rough surface to get to the harder park of the bark.
“I stare at it until an image pops out and then I cut into it. I like the creativity and figuring out what to end up with,” Gyory said. “I love the challenge of carving. No two carvings are alike. I also like the camaraderie of the group. We come in in here to relax and tell stories to each other and feed off each other. Some stories are true and some are not.”
She participated in the Senior Expo held at the Agricultural Center during 4-H Week. Gyory has also entered the Carroll Carvers shows.
Joan Shearer is also in the North Carroll Senior Center Carvers group. She began to carve by accident. About five years ago, Shearer was taking a watercolor class that was not held in the summer. Another woman convinced a group to come to the North Carroll Seniors carvers’ class for the summer. At first, Shearer did not want to do it, but she is still in the carvers group today and the others who started with her have left.
Shearer does chip carving, a process in which the carver removes small pieces of wood from a larger item with chisels or knives.
“It is enjoyable and quiet and peaceful,” Shearer said. “You can also pick it up and lay it down. I have tried all the different kinds of carving but prefer chip carving to the others. The camaraderie is wonderful. We all look out for each other Charlotte and I are the ambassadors for the group.”
The carved scene of Chip’s Honky Ton” will be shown at the Carroll Carvers Show to be held April 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 pm at the Robert Moton Center in Westminster. Admission is $3 for adults and children under 16 are free. The first 25 children who attend get free soap carving kits. There will be carving competitions, demonstrations and individual carvers will display their work. A special guest carver, John Ridinger, from Hanover, Pennsylvania, carves miniature working circuses. He will do a display and discuss it.