WL woodcarving group finds life in the grain
Once a week, from 9-10:30 a.m., a quiet meeting room at the northeast end of the West Linn Adult Community Center slowly comes to life.
Residents file in one by one, each carrying slabs of wood that are somewhere on the road between scrap and centerpiece. Their work is quiet at first, but as time passes and the room begins to fill, the sounds of chipping and sanding are overrun by lively conversation.
"This is the 50-year anniversary of my being wounded in Vietnam," one man says. "50 years!"
Another man is asked about the health of his son, and discussions about everything from politics to the weather are occasionally punctuated by musical notes from a hand-carved bamboo flute.
To hear group leader Dave Rood tell it, this is just a typical Monday morning for the West Linn woodcarving group.
"Everybody knows about everybody else," Rood says. "Everybody just talks and does what they want, and it's surprising how much talent is involved."
Indeed, the woodcarvers are quick to brag about how many ribbons one member, John Bezayiff, has won at both the Oregon State Fair and the Clackamas County Fair. Another group member, Ron Williamson, specializes in carving flutes and eagle heads. Beverly Lynds, who takes pride in being the group's oldest member at age 88, is putting the finishing touches on a stunningly accurate carving of a 15th century piece by the Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia.
"I saw it at the National Gallery in Washington when I was there last year and I thought it was so beautiful," Lynds says. "So I thought I would make a copy of it."
The group numbers between 12 and 15 people, according to Rood, and it has been meeting for about 15 years. Its roots lie in neighboring Lake Oswego, where Rood first learned to carve.
"I started in Lake Oswego, I think it was in about 1993 when I was first retired, and Lake Oswego had a nice carving class," Rood says. "I stayed there for five or six or seven years, and our instructor died. I kind of took over — I didn't know as much as he did, but we had a great time over there."
Rood started a new group when he moved to West Linn, and Lynds — who he'd first met in Lake Oswego — joined him. Several other current members have been there since the beginning, or close to it, which lends to the familial atmosphere of the carving sessions.
"I think a lot of us come for the social aspect," Lynds says.
"It's good camaraderie," Rood adds. "We all know each other."
Inspiration for a new carving can come from just about anywhere, which helps keep things fresh.
"You just see stuff and you're like, 'Boy, I'd like to do that,'" Rood says. "A lot of people just look at a magazine and if they see something and say, 'Can I do this?', I'll say, 'Sure!'"
As he spoke, Rood was working on two projects at once: a cane and a chip carving of a bighorn sheep. The latter was based on an illustration that struck a chord with him.
"Lake Oswego had a whole bunch of books (with illustrations) — somebody must have put them together," Rood says. "We just have books and books of those that people have collected."
While the longtime group members have grown close, they also welcome new carvers.
"We encourage anybody," Rood says. "Some people don't think they can do it, but they'd be surprised."
"It's just something to get together and enjoy, and it's a good hobby," Williamson says. "That's mainly the reason — keep busy, be creative."
Bezayiff, the professional artist of the group who has won multiple ribbons at state and county fairs, says arthritis in his hands might put a halt to his woodcarving at some point soon. But on this day, as he chips away at his latest piece, he points not at his hands but at his brain as he explains why he keeps busy with woodcarving and other artistic endeavors.
"This is a muscle too, right?" Bezayiff says.
The West Linn woodcarving group meets every Monday from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Adult Community Center, 1180 Rosemont Road, West Linn.