May 23, 2012BERLIN – Each Wednesday at 6 p.m. the local carving club meets at Ed Solar's E & S Rental Sales and Service operation on Bridge Street. Sometimes it's just Ed whittling away on his various masterpieces of wood, but other times a small group of beginners and quick learners gathers.
On a recent evening, Lisa Morse is the only other club member in attendance. She's a second grade teacher at the Milan School. While she sews, knits and does what she calls other "country things," Morse started with no carving skills or really any particular experience. "I never used any tools," she said, but she wanted to learn.
"Having skills is part of someone's personality," she continued. Morse was finishing up simple wall hanger made from a thin birch tree (a single branch serves as the hook).
Anybody can learn to carve wood, Solar said. "It takes time." He is quick to correct that he's not the teacher (he was for a few years at a local high school) and this is not a class. "It's a club," he said, very democratic, group-run outfit.
Still, Solar is a master carver and his shop is testament to his skill and diversity. He also basket weaver, wood worker and makes stained glass. His most ambitious piece was a full-sized carousel horse. Solar has been carving since he was 12-years-old. He said he's not an artist, more of engineer or "a good copier." He starts with specific plans and follows them faithfully. "The key," he said, "is to remove the wood that doesn't belong. It's as simple as that." With beginners, he gives them piece of Bass wood, (a perfect wood for carving), and marks the areas that need to be cut out. Eventually, what's left is the end result (with differing degrees of perfection.)
Solar and Morse agree that our society's drive for experts and professionalism discourages people from starting a craft or trade. Morse said, carving "gives her satisfaction" and "is separate from her regular day in day out work."