- Associated Press - Sunday, February 18, 2018

DYERSVILLE, Iowa (AP) - For members of the Bear Creek Woodcarving Club, spreading the love of their hobby to others is akin to whittling away at a piece of lumber.

It just takes patience and tenacity.

Since the late 1990s, group members have met twice per month in Dyersville to share their passion.

“It’s getting to be a lost art,” said Roger Westemeier, 73, a club member since 2000. “You can really make anything out of wood. It just takes a lot of practice.”

During regular meetings, the 17 members bring in current projects to work on and share ideas.

Sometimes members are given a similarly sized wood cutout and told to create something unique. They then vote on which one is the best.

While the group is made up of people who have been carving for years, Westemeier said the aim is to introduce people to the craft. Guests are encouraged to attend meetings, where they are invited to learn the basics for free, the Telegraph Herald reported .

“If someone comes to visit, we’ll hand them some gloves and a knife and we’ll get them working on something,” Westemeier said. “We always love showing people the ropes.”

Additionally, the group holds special classes for more in-depth lessons.

Students only are charged the cost of the wood and necessary equipment. If they end up not wanting to continue, the club will buy the equipment back, Westemeier said.

“We’re really not trying to make any money,” he said. “We just want to show everybody else what’s so great about it.”

Sometimes people lose interest, Westemeier acknowledged. However, group members occasionally find someone who becomes as passionate as they are.

Ernie Akers, 81, joined the club four years ago with no prior experience. He recalls being welcomed with open arms.

“The whole thing was really inviting, and I was able to learn so much,” he said. “Now it’s a relaxing hobby that I enjoy very much.”

While the club is designed to welcome newcomers, it also has attracted the interest of veterans as well.

Dick Bockenstedt, 73, has been carving since 1978. His most notable creation was a cane he cluttered with the etched designs of 108 famous cartoon characters, including Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck.

Bockenstedt joined the club 10 years ago. He said it gives him the opportunity to teach younger generations about the art form.

“If somebody doesn’t continue to teach these old arts, then they won’t last,” he said. “I love woodcarving, and I want to make sure that future generations will be able to do it.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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