North East Woodcarvers Roundup
by Mike Bloomquist
I found it! I found it! I found it! I knew I had notes from my first year at the NorthEast Woodcarvers Roundup, but what I found was even better. I had actually written a fair portion of an article to inflict… I mean… to offer up to my readership, all three of you. This was Harold and my (and Jack Miller’s, and Merrilee’s, and...) seventh year at the NEWR. What follows is an account of the first year in much more vivid detail than I could conjure up now. So please indulge a double dose of prolixity and join me as I remember when...
When I got George's
e-mail sometime in the fall of 2002 I
immediately punched Rome, NY and Honesdale, Pa into MapQuest and came
up with a
one-way trip of 3 hours plus some change.
Translating that into a worst-case-scenario of back roads (nothing over
55mph) and my tired old Hyundai Excel filled with camping gear, carving
equipment, my white board, and some bass wood blanks, the trip probably
be 4 hours plus some change... sign me up George! As it turned
out, I conned my carving buddy,
Harold Kaltenbach, into going too. This
changed the vehicle into a full size, somewhat tired GMC truck and
loaded with Harold’s stuff AND my tent, whiteboard... well you've
that list. My plan had been to drive the
Hyundai as well as Harold’s truck/camper, but Harold had a much more
opinion of my little red beast’s trip worthiness. Yvonne's
nickname for it is the
“Little-Red-S**t-Box”, but this is a family E-zine so we won’t go
Poor Harold actually got shanghaied into
going. It wasn’t that he wasn’t
interested, but I explained to him that he had to go because I had
up as an instructor. At first Harold
didn’t feel qualified to go as an instructor, but having seen him teach
groups at the Erie Canal Woodcarvers, I had no qualms about signing him
up. “Besides”, I explained, “all the
instructors are volunteers so worst case scenario your students ask for
refund”. My last point was something
like “What's a friend for if he can't give you a shove from behind on
said with a grin.
Harold and I got to Honesdale a day before the official start. We took a leisurely two hours down Route 8, ate lunch at a greasy spoon in Hancock, NY, immediately crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania and arrived at Honesdale from the north at about 2pm heading out to Cherry Ridge Campgrounds. Getting directions on the way out of Honesdale, it struck me as a good sign that those directions included a “Bear Swamp Road”. We have similar names for roads in Upstate NY, but they’re usually something like “Hogs Back Road”, which very accurately describes how nasty the road surface is. Maybe I was being naturally optimistic considering the activities for the following days, but you just have to be headed towards a good time on a road with a name like Bear Swamp.
Almost immediately after arriving at Cherry Ridge we met George, Anne, & Jack. They and a couple others had formed a happy looking group between trailers and were busy on carving projects. Jack was plugged into the nearest power pole, happily grinding away at a piece of wood. Now that’s a dedicated power carver, but there’s got to be one in every crowd I suppose. Guess I really shouldn’t make fun of them power carvers just because I’m too lazy to unplug my trusty old Foredom and pack it. I shouldn’t make fun of Jack anyway since he fixed Harold and me some wonderful “deluxe” pancakes Monday morning. Anyway, in amongst that group there was a pleasant surprise… a student from one of my Rochester Woodspirit classes had made the trek. Darn, I’m busted! Now she’ll find out what real woodcarving instructors are like. It got worse since a second of student from my Rochester class showed up as well. Boy, this better be as good as I described it.
Cherry Ridge Campgrounds is a country music/country dancing themed campgrounds. If you haven’t been there before it looks a little past its prime in certain areas, but anyone with a little history with the place knows that it’s actually on its way back after changing owners about 5 years ago. It has the full spectrum of facilities from tent sites, to large trailer/RV sites to park homes, cabins, rooms and lodge accommodations. The facilities include two large buildings, one with room for two squares (that’s square dancing squares for un-enlightened), and one with room for 3 squares plus a small kitchen and eating area. Being Saturday night the country dancers were still with us, but come Sunday they would be replaced by woodcarvers at most of the sites and the squares would be filled with tables for woodcarving classes. Saturday night was very peaceful, and I was glad Harold and I came early so we could meet George and Anne and Jackand a few others before the campsite filled Sunday and everything got into high gear… especially George and Ann.
Sunday for registration, then Monday, Tuesday, and
Wednesday for classes. Thursday was for saying goodbye and heading
You would think that, in that amount of time,
one could get their fill of woodcarving and talking to folks about
woodcarving. Nope! It flew by like no time at all. I
had promised myself to keep up in my
journal so details would not be lost, but there was
barely time for
so you will have to forgive this poor reporter, and bear with some
mental images. There was Mike Smith who
carved spoons and confirmed the fact there are mountain men in the
northeast. Mike traded me a piece of red
gum burl for some prime Montana cottonwood bark. There was
Merrilee the “hat lady”, who always
seemed to sparkle and had her sister and mother there as a mobile
group. While in my cottonwood bark
woodspirit class, Tony Erikson doubled my knowledge of things
Scandinavian. There was Sandie from the
Catskill Mountain Woodcarvers club. She
fixed a couple of awesome breakfasts in her Bounder for Harold and I,
me up to date on how Lance Armstrong was doing in “The Tour”.
and boy can she carve too… there was evidence pulled out of every
cubbyhole in that RV. It was quite a
Then there was Sally and David Nye. Not long after the morning session of my first class, these small wooden fan birds started flying by the table. By the morning session Tuesday there was a small flock of them. What was really impressive about two or three of them is they were in the hands of non-carving spouses of woodcarvers I knew, and were closely followed by the words “see what I carved?”
Now due to poor PR on my
part… I only had two students in my Tuesday morning class for carving a
kokopelli. It was disappointing, but
freed up the rest of the day for the teacher to play hooky.
Anyway, I wandered over to the other building
where everyone was carving these fan birds, and there I met the
It was a wonderful workshop where, not only
could you carve a hummingbird, goose, or songbird variation of these
but you got to hear some of the first hand research this couple did
origins. Also, if you coaxed them just a
little, they told you about the book they self published. A copy sits
in my bookshelf at home… well, when it’s not in the carving bag ready
off with my hummingbird style fan bird.
“See what I carved?”
Let’s see… then there was Chris Howard, the carving cowboy from Gatlinburg (Tennessee of course). He was doing a great job as instructor teaching Native American busts, and faces in general. The “great job” rating was heard directly from students that had completed his workshops. In a later e-mail he claimed that we all had an accent. Sorry Chris. If we were in Gatlinburg, we would have had an accent. Buddy, you were the northeast corner of Pennsylvania… you had the accent this time. There was Nick Sciortino (A.K.A Koz) the chip carving barber. Nick was another of our instructors. His specialty is chip carving, and the free style things he does are amazing. Fortunately none of my other classes bombed, but if they had, his chip carving class might have been my next stop. I walked in on an impromptu meeting of instructors just in time for a joke telling session between him and Jack Miller. It was close Jack, but I think Sciortino? He ummm… Nick’d you out?
There was another workshop I had the privilege to attend Tuesday evening, and that was one taught by Elmer Jumper. Elmer’s class was kind of a last minute, unscheduled thing with a unique project called “defo dog”. Seen a lot of dog carvings, but this one was in a classic pose dogs do while depositing solid fertilizer on your lawn. The "kit" came complete with a small elbo of black walnut. I'll leave the rest of that carving to your fertile imaginations. Yep, unique. At complete odds with the dog project we were carving, Elmer desribed, in words reverent and painterly, his pilgrimage to the woodcarving Mecca of St. Jean-port-Joli and meeting Benoi Deschenes. It was definitely a trip for somewhere in my future.
You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquist AT woodendreamz DOT com
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