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Carver creates art from nature

Mon, Jul 23rd, 2012
Posted in All Health & Wellness

Tom Severson with one of several woodcarving creatures he has created in the past 15 years

By: Wendy Wilson

Wood chips scatter across the table like droplets of water skipping from a fountain, spilling onto the floor.

Tom Severson looks at a piece of wood, envisioning it in another form.

Severson, 56, an IBM retiree living in Rochester, is a member of the Rochester Senior Center Woodcarvers club. The group’s participants range in age from 55 to 85 years old. They meet inside the center’s craft room to carve and swap ideas Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

“They have an excellent facility,” Severson says. “We get great support from the senior center and the staff for the woodcarving program.”

Severson began working with wood 15 years ago, learning carving skills through classes offered by Rochester Community Education.

“Probably what got me started in wood carving is just taking a piece of wood and imagining what’s inside that piece of wood and cutting away the outside to reveal what’s hidden in there,” Severson says. “All these pieces were just plain blocks of wood at one time. Inside that block of wood there is an ornament waiting to come out or a spoon or this special design.”

Severson bases many of his creations upon Scandinavian patterns like the acanthus style he employs in some of his wooden plate, spoon and ornament designs.

“Those that are familiar with Rosemaling – it’s also a Scandinavian style decoration,” Severson said. “It’s the same kind of flowers and leaves and designs.”

Severson showed the steps involved with carving a Christmas ornament, transforming the small piece of wood into a complex design.

“It’s a chance to create something new and different from what others have done in the design or creation,” Severson says. “You may start with a pattern and then you modify it to your own view or your own interest.”

He held up an intricately designed piece of wood carved into small circle called an Irish Claddagh. Upon closer observation, one can see the circle is actually comprised of tiny arms carved into the wood.

“In Ireland, this is good luck,” he says with a smile. “This is arms that come around and you can see that this is the white cuffs of a suit jacket and these are the hands and then this is a heart with a crown on it.”

The piece will be made into a photo frame.

“This is something you would give to somebody for an Irish wedding present,” he says.

Severson gives most of his carvings away as gifts.

“Most people really enjoy receiving, hand-made, hand-created, unique pieces,” he says. “I don’t sell any of my work. It’s for my own fun and my own gifts.”

Many members of the senior center’s woodcarvers club also belong to the Rochester Woodcarvers club which first formed in 1976. The group meets monthly from September through May.

“It’s really an educational program where we bring in speakers and they talk to us about their carving techniques and experiences,” Severson says.

Participants are able to watch the intricate carving live on a large screen TV.

For the past 26 years, the Rochester Woodcarvers club has annually donated a tree to the Hiawatha Homes Festival of Trees. Many senior members work on portions of the project at the senior center, creating wood ornaments to hang on the tree.

Last year’s project was an operating carousel with the tree mounted into the center post with 16 carved animals.

This year, according to Severson, the carvers will be working on a theme based upon the nursery rhyme “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.”

“We like to participate because it’s good for our community and it gets us some new, interested members,” Severson says.

More information on the Rochester Woodcarvers club may be found at http://rochesterwoodcarvers.com.

members of the Rochester Woodcarvers club teach classes for beginning and advanced woodcarvers through Community Education. More information may be found in its catalog and on the website http://www.rochester.k12.mn.us/school86.

For more information about clubs and events at the senior center, contact the Rochester Senior Center at 507-287-1404, 121 North Broadway, Rochester.

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