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Madison Heights

March 13, 2013

Wood carvers come to Madison Place

Metro Carvers of Michigan exhibit March 16-17

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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At last year’s Metro Carvers of Michigan Wood Carving Show, Susan Farkas, of Warren, examined a variety of wooden boxes. The annual event features everything from functional works to purely artistic pieces, ranging from the abstract to the photorealistic. This year’s event is also at Madison Place, March 16-17.

MADISON HEIGHTS — From the real to the surreal, wood is a versatile medium. Artists can render everything from sculptures that look like animals frozen in time, to fairy houses so twisted that their precarious stairways seem to defy gravity.

The two extremes and everything in between will be represented at the Metro Carvers of Michigan’s 33rd Annual Wood Carving Show, set to take place at the United Food & Commercial Workers Hall — also called Madison Place — at 876 Horace Brown Drive, south of 13 Mile between Interstate 75 and John R in Madison Heights.

The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17.

The event last year attracted more than 2,000 people. The stars of the show are members of the Metro Carvers of Michigan, a satellite group of the Michigan Wood Carvers Association, who will show what they can do with bark and wood.

“There’s just about anything you can imagine,” said Mary Jo Brown, now in her last year as show chairperson. “It doesn’t matter if you’re into wood burning, of which there are many different styles, or in the round, where they do caricatures, like your cartoon people, or the full taxidermy-type stuff. Some of the bird carvings, you’re expecting them to move, they’re so realistic. But remember, it’s wood. It’s amazing, but it’s wood!”

Woodworkers use all types of wood, including pine, walnut, cedar, basswood and butternut. How they shape the wood depends on the artist, ranging from wood burning and in the round (three-dimensional) to bark carving, chip carving and relief carving.

For the competition at the core of the show, there are 30 different categories in which the various pieces can compete. Three judges select the best for each category, based on criteria including presentation and so forth.

The finalists, or blue-ribbon winners, are chosen by noon the first day. From there, judges select the top three carvings they consider Best of Show.

The carvers in attendance also cast their votes for a Carvers’ Choice Award, while regular show-goers can cast votes for the People’s Choice Award.

Aside from the competition, there are exhibits to check out, such as “Lean on Me,” also known as the Patriot Cane/Memorial Project, in which volunteers carve canes for servicemen and women featuring one-of-a-kind eagle heads on the handles, as well as personalized decals and information along the shaft.

Attendees can learn about the program at the show, check out some of the completed canes in person, and vote for their favorites.

In addition, there will be seminars by expert carvers and wood-burners explaining how they handle various techniques. And for the kids, there will be soap carving around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, a risk-free alternative to woodcarving that can count toward a scout’s carving badge.

Paul Blanchard, former president of the Metro Carvers of Michigan, said his group continues to grow, as more people are drawn to the craft of woodcarving. 

“Maybe it’s the smell of the wood,” Blanchard laughed. “Just recently, I met eight new carvers we’ve picked up. I’m happy to say we pick up new people all the time. It’s a great group with a lot of camaraderie.

“You start small, and you build on your successes,” he said, noting the craft is easy to learn but limitless in potential. “I try to not stay on one object and nitpick it to death; once you’re satisfied with it or have received enough compliments, move on to a different subject matter. Or if you do repeat it, try to improve on the first one. But I always encourage people I’m teaching to do more than one subject — to expand their horizons.

“Woodcarving is so diversified, with so many facets to it,” Blanchard said. “I’ve been at it for over 30 years, and I’m just as enthusiastic today as when I first started.”

The Metro Carvers of Michigan’s 33rd Annual Wood Carving Show will be at the United Food & Commercial Workers Hall, 876 Horace Brown Drive, south of 13 Mile between Interstate 75 and John R in Madison Heights, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17. Admission is $4 per adult; children ages 12 and younger get in free.

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, visit www.metrocarvers.com or email miwoodcarvers@yahoo.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.