OAKHURST – Some may believe that woodcarving is a nearly-lost art, but not Larry Smith, co-organizer of the Oakhurst Woodcarvers Rendezvous.
In fact, Larry and others are committed to preserving the skill of woodcarving in all its forms, and are currently raising money to ensure that graduating mountain area high school students are supported in their bid to become woodcarvers, themselves.
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During the April Woodcarvers’ Rendezvous, now in its seventh year, Larry invited 13 carvers to join in a whittling contest to create a masterpiece 16-square wooden quilt in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act signed by President Lincoln. Participants were given just two subject ideas: Lincoln and Yosemite. The wooden quilt project serves as part of the year-long celebration of the historic event by Yosemite National Park and the gateway communities.
The resulting 3′ by 2′ quilt is set to be raffled off on January 1, 2015. Raffle tickets cost $5 each or six for $20, and proceeds benefit the Oakhurst Woodcarvers High School Scholarship Fund for the Art of Woodcarving.
The marvelous wooden relief is now on display in the lobby of Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, and will be making its way around the area to various events through the end of this year.
Each of the 16 eight-inch by six-inch squares depicts an aspect of Yosemite National Park, rendered according to the artist’s vision. Subjects include the Wawona covered bridge, Mariposa Grove’s Giant Sequoias, and Yosemite Valley’s iconic Half Dome and waterfalls. Some are carved while others are woodburned.
Although the ages of the Wooden Quilt’s carvers range from 50 to 80, the scholarship is the club’s way of ensuring that younger generations find inspiration in the art form they treasure.
Larry believes, “If a kid starts young enough, he can earn a fairly decent living at it. I know several carvers for whom this is their livelihood. There is a large spectrum of forms the craft can take from woodturning to scroll saw to woodburning, even creating furniture.”
Carving clubs exist throughout the nation, including California Carvers’ Guild, which promotes fellowship with other woodcarvers along with the opportunity to participate in shows and training.
Larry estimates more than 70 hours of work went into the making of the masterwork, carved and burned, then pieced together by artists who came from all over California. Meanwhile, the Rendezvous itself was additionally attended by people from Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
The nimble-fingered bunch prefers to have a purpose to their process, and therefore is in the habit of donating finely crafted work to raise money for various charities, including the Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst, and now, the high school scholarship fund for any graduating student in the foothills who wants to go into wood carving.
Looking at the wood quilt, and starting on the top row, left to right, contributers are: (1) Darryl Easter, Camarillo, CA.; (2) Andy Larsen, Oakhurst; (3) Helen Scroll, Oakhurst; (4) Larry Smith, Oakhurst.
In row two, (5) Durwood Thrasher, Tehachapi, CA.; (6) Judy Sanders, Santa Rosa, CA.; (7) Larry Smith; (8) Joy Larsen, Oakhurst.
In row three, (9) Steve Gramberg, Meadow Vista, CA .; (10) Jim Crocket, North Fork; (11) Ed Frank, Mariposa; (12) Wendy Belber, Sebastopol, CA.
In row four, (13) Larry Smith, (14) Carol Smith, Fontana, CA. (15) Leroy Metz, Merced; (16) Lorraine Henry, San Diego.
Since the quilt-carving was billed as friendly competition, it’s nice to note Carol Smith took First Place for space 14, Ed Frank took Second for space 11, and in Third Place, Leroy Metz for space 15. Don King of Oakhurst made the frame that holds it all together.
“We also had a bear carving contest,” Larry says, ” with First Place going to Leroy Metz, Second to Andy Larsen, and Third to Jim Crocket. Richard Zerbel received an Honorable Mention.
The public is invited to stop by Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau to view the quilt and purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win the unique piece. Lobby hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays, through the summer.
Woodcarvers Rendezvous 2015 will take place April 19 through April 25. For more information about the Wooden Quilt, Oakhurst Woodcarvers Rendezvous or the Oakhurst Woodcarvers’ High School Scholarship Fund for the Art of Woodcarving, call Larry Smith at (559) 658-2405, or reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org