Cedar River Chip - a - Ways
by Jim Cross Press - News Reporter
For over 30 years, members of the Cedar River Chip-a-Ways Carving Club have shared their love for woodcarving and the camaraderie of lifelong friends.
This coming Sunday, Sept. 23 club members Tom Pitzen, Bill Huebsch, Jim Moody, Burt Hogan, Marilyn Rockafellow and Larry Crilly will have several of their works on display at the Mitchell County Historical Museum.
A reception is planned from 1-5 p.m. with refreshments being served.
According to Huebsch, the club was first formed, not as a club, but actually as a class.
"My dad, Ed, called me up one day and asked me if I thought we could get a carving class started through NIACC," said Huebsch.
"He called NIACC and they said if we could get five people, they would start a class."
The first class had 20 people.
"The classes continued for several years," he said.
From there, it turned into a club meeting at Huebsch's house and then eventually at Martin Wetter's home.
"After the class, several people said, 'this is fun,’" he said. "So, we started the club at our house."
When the weather turned cold, the club moved its meetings to Wetter's house and they continued to meet there until 1999 when he passed away.
From 1999 until two years ago, the club was not meeting regularly.
"I'd have to give my dad the main credit for getting the class started and keeping it going as a club," said Huebsch.
Huebsch considers himself a whittler more than a carver.
"I enjoy working on small things of any kind of material," said Huebsch. "Nothing is sacred.
"One time, we taught carving to some 4-H'ers. We used a sweet potato and a butter knife. It worked."
The following are brief vignettes about the carvers exhibiting at the museum.
Burt Hogan, Osage, has spent many years as a member of club.
Hogan, with encouragement from Huebsch and Ric Lancaster, decided to re-organize the group about a year ago.
"There is no cost to join the club," he said, "and you don't have to come every month."
Hogan stressed he is simply looking for people who enjoy carving.
During meetings, club members will be able to share what projects they have been working for the past month.
"It's a time to share the common interest of wood carving with others," said Hogan. "By sharing ideas with each, I hope others will become inspired and inspire others to create something."
For Hogan, woodcarving started out as a hobby but quickly turned into a fun-filled obsession.
"I love doing it for myself," he said. "Now, I've also decided to try to make some money."
In high school, Hogan first became interested in painting.
"I just didn't have it as a painter," he said. "I enjoyed creating but I wanted something different. So, I started carving on gun stocks."
Many years later, after being in the military and living outside of Iowa, Hogan returned home to Iowa and attended a carving show.
"I became inspired to carve," he said. "Now, I want to help inspire others to get involved with wood carving."
Currently, Hogan devotes most of his time to carving walking sticks out of driftwood.
"I also enjoy carving nature," said Hogan. "I enjoy carving nature out of 'found wood'."
Found wood is simply as it sounds, a piece of wood found out in nature somewhere.
"I will come across a piece of wood and I can see almost immediately what the piece will look like after I'm finished carving."
Marilyn Rockafellow, St. Ansgar, has been a member of the Chip-a-Ways for over 30 years.
She and her husband, Dean, who passed away this past June, joined the group together.
"We both loved wood," she said. "We would work together on different pieces."
For about the past 20 years, Rockafellow has refined the art of chip carving.
Chip carving, an old Scandinavian art form, uses a small bladed knife to remove small chips, usually in three cuts, to form a geometric shape either on a 3-dimensional or flat surface.
Rockafellow first got the idea from a book she had purchased.
"I looked at the book for about a year," she said. "I then decided to take a class at Vesterheim in Decorah."
From there, she continued taking classes in Lebanon and Branson, MO, to refine her craft.
She recently took second in the United States Chip Carving Contest.
One unique medium she uses is golf balls.
"After I get the covering off, I can usually create something in about an hour," she said. "I did a bird house that took me about 40 hours to complete."
The birdhouse is designed to look like a Norwegian Stabbur House.
"For me, chip carving is very relaxing, although it does require a lot of patience and practice," said Rockafellow. "I also enjoy it because it's something I can do inside the house year-round. I just have a few little pieces to vacuum off the floor."
She also creates pieces from basswood, a common wood used in chip carving as well as in woodcarving.
What's the secret to chip carving?
"Always keep your knife sharp," said Rockafellow.
Larry Crilly, St. Ansgar, has been a member of the club for less than a year.
"I've always been a wood carver," said Crilly. "I enjoy working with wood."
He enjoys using basswood for his carvings.
"My dad was a woodcarver," he said. "I have lots of pieces of basswood he collected over the years with many pieces coming from the Mississippi."
Two of his pieces in the exhibit are a mountain man and Snoopy baseball dog.
Jim Moody, Osage, has been a member of the club for over 30 years.
"I actually got started in woodcarving because of my wife, Dorothy," he said. "We were at a show in Rudd and my wife said, 'you can do that.'"
The next thing Moody knew his wife had signed him up for a class and things took off from there.
"Growing up, I always built models with my dad," he said.
For the past four years, Moody has spent his time creating birds.
"I attended a three-day conference in Davenport on how to carve a particular bird," said Moody. "This year we are going to learn how to carve a Baltimore oriole."
Each year, Moody creates a hand-carved Christmas ornament for his wife and their four children.
"I've been doing that for many years," he said. "It takes me about four hours to create each ornament."
He said he tries to have a different design each year on each ornament.
"Wood carving passes the time," said Moody. "Before you know it, several hours have passed."
Club members meet from 7-9 p.m. on the second Tuesday and the fourth Thursday of each month at the Mitchell County Nature Center located at 18793 Highway 9, just west of Osage.
For more information regarding the club or about carving in general, contact Burt Hogan at 641-732-3944 .