- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

CONVERSE, Ind. (AP) - From caricatures to chip carving, people from across the Midwest flocked to Converse for a weekend of woodcarving in what has become an annual local tradition.

The 26th annual Eastern Woodland Carving Show featured 120 entries, with woodcarvers from seven different states showing off their work on Saturday and Sunday inside the Converse Gym.

Eastern Woodland Carving Club Board of Directors Chairman Gary Freeman said while the number of entries was down slightly this year, the quality of the work on display was as high as ever.

“The quality of the pieces this year has been amazing,” he told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1muPLvj ). “I like to see what everyone brings every year, because you expect the work to get better, and it always does.”

Since the club was founded in 1988, it has grown from 13 members to nearly 250, as woodcarvers meet every Tuesday for open carves. Throughout the year, the club conducts projects together, holds seminars and workshops and maintains a carving library from its location on South Jefferson Street.

The weekend’s events included basket weaving, chip carving demos, carving demonstrations and door prizes.

The carving show is an opportunity for people from across the Midwest to enjoy the tranquility that comes from woodcarving, Freeman said.

“It’s one of those hobbies that if you have a lot of stress, it just goes away when you’re carving,” he said. “You just forget about all of the clutter in the world.”

Greentown resident Jim Hartley began woodcarving in 2000 and has been hooked ever since. He took third place for Best in Show at this year’s contest for a bowl that has become a signature item of his.

He often attends open carving with the EWCC and even travels to Texas for more than three months out of the year to work with different woods to hone his skills.

“I like creating and I enjoy the challenge of learning new things,” he said. “For me, it’s a God-given talent, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and teaching others.”

Sharing the gift of woodcarving is something many of the people in attendance stressed during the carving show.

Pendleton resident Norm Clifford began devoting much of his spare time to woodcarving in 2010 after he retired from teaching.

As a former science teacher, Clifford said much of his work focuses on animals, often displaying fine detail. After teaching his entire career, he now finds himself being taught by many of the more experienced carvers he encounters every year at the show.

“I love going to shows like this because (I) have people with far more experience teaching me,” he said. “I just try to learn as much as I can from the experts and try to get better all the time.”

Woodburn resident Roger Strautman’s idea of chip carving a replica of the Ten Commandments caught the attention of judges, earning him the 2014 Best of Show award for the event.

Strautman said he worked between 75 and 100 hours on the piece that required a lot of attention to detail.

“I enjoy the chip carving because I’m more of a perfectionist,” he said. “In chip carving, the cuts have to be just so. I have a lot of patience, and that’s the type of carving that requires a lot of patience.”

For more information on the EWCC, visit ewcc.wordpress.com.

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com

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