Carving a niche Seminar in Jackson shows hobbyists how to shap

Friday, November 1, 2002

They bring pouncing panthers, campfire cowboys and cypress knee Santas to life, and all they started with was an interest, a class and a few basic tools.

They are wood carvers.

"The thing about carving is you can carve whatever strikes your fancy, there are so many different styles of carving," said Dave Ledure of Jackson. "And you can get started for under 30 bucks. Just buy a good knife and a couple basic tools until you know what you want to do."

Ten members of the River Valley Carvers met Saturday for a carving workshop led by Janet Denton Cordell of northwest Arkansas. During the all-day session, beginners and skilled carvers alike learned how to carve a raccoon or horse through step-by-step instruction.

Cordell grew up in a carving family -- both of her parents and two of her three sisters carved. For a living, the family sold most of its work to Silver Dollar City, a tourist site in Missouri about 125 miles from their home. The family was featured in the July 1975 issue of National Geographic.

"I remember, it was about the third grade when I realized not everyone does this," Cordell said. "I didn't understand. If somebody wanted something, why didn't their dad just make it?"

Cordell has been carving professionally for about 35 years and leading seminars for 10 years. She schedules approximately 20 seminars a year. She has taught wood carving out of her home since 1982.

"It is very therapeutic, especially the carvings I do as a hobby. You can lose yourself in it," Cordell said.

As the son of a carpenter, Ledure worked with wood all his life, even studied it in college. It was 1990, however, when his wife, Sharon, bought him a small carving set for his birthday. And after painting many of her husband's pieces, Sharon Ledure decided to try her hand at the craft the next year. Both Ledures helped organize the River Valley Carvers, a local group of about 40 wood carvers, in 1993.

Meets monthly

The wood carving club meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month in the lower level of Bethany Baptist Church at the corner of Lynnwood and Randol in Cape Girardeau. Each meeting consists of a brief business session followed by short demonstrations and discussions. Time is allotted for "show and tell" where people are encouraged to bring a finished product or work in progress.

During the winter, the club also hosts one Saturday workshop each month, in which a club member or outside expert teaches a small carving project.

Carvers use many different mediums, including softwoods such as butternut, hardwoods, driftwood, cottonwood bark, bone and even moose antlers.

"It is not a difficult skill to learn, but you must be willing to take some time with it," Sharon Ledure said. "Some people say they don't have the patience, but Dave always tells them this develops patience because you can't rush the wood. It will break."

For more information on the River Valley Carvers, call the Ledures at 243-1616, Jim Stubbs at 887-6207 or Bob Wyatt at (618) 964-1120.

335-6611, extension 133

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