- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) - Local woodworker Wyatt Severs knows that sometimes the obstacles in life set us on the path to success.

Severs, a southern Illinois native who now lives in Murray, has dyslexia. When he was in elementary school, the condition was seen as embarrassing, proof he would never be “book smart” enough for college. Even now, the condition keeps him from certain job opportunities.

“Any job that (requires) a lot of reading and writing … wasn’t a good option for me. So when I came across woodworking, I thought, ‘This is really great. I can express myself,’” he said.

What began as an outlet for Severs has become his livelihood. He was honored earlier this year with a Kentucky Arts Council’s Emerging Artists Grant of $1,000; he was the only visual artist in the commonwealth to receive the recognition. The grant is given on a rotating basis to professionals beginning their careers in the fields of literary and visual arts, composing, choreography, and media arts.

Severs isn’t sure what he plans to do with the money, but he said it will likely go toward his work as an instructor. He started down that road in 2006 as a teaching assistant at Murray State University. He’s now racked up a long list of apprenticeships, residencies and teaching positions in locales ranging from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Northland, New Zealand.

The woodworker said his love for working with students - particularly those with learning or other disabilities - comes from his own experience. In elementary school, he was pulled out of his regular classes and put in remedial learning, which he described as “horrible.”

“That’s … what gives me a passion to want to be a teacher: to make sure that doesn’t happen to other kids,” he said.

Woodworking, Severs said, can introduce children to new ways of looking at the world.

“Kids don’t really get much experience with that these days, as far as how things are made,” he said.

Before he became interested in woodworking, Severs drew. Since he struggled to write, his drawings sometimes served as a personal documentation of his life, a pictorial journal of sorts. Severs intended to pursue sculpture when he first began studying woodworking at Murray, but he’s since found himself taking a different route.

“I wanted to learn the characteristics and the limitations of the wood. I thought the best way to do that is to pick stuff that requires a massive amount of precision,” he said.

A self-described nature lover, Severs builds mainly with cherry and maple, often employing a brick-like pattern on the furniture’s surface. He occasionally incorporates painting or drawing onto the objects. He said it can take him anywhere from a couple of days to build a small table to several months for a larger piece. The slower pace of woodworking suits the process-oriented artist.

“I’ve never really been a career-grower. I don’t produce work (quickly) like one should to get to the top of the ladder … which is OK, because I think the world’s in too much of a rush and needs to slow down,” he said.


Information from: The Paducah Sun, https://www.paducahsun.com

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