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Going with the grain

Local wood-crafting groups are mostly about furthering the craft and socializing, with very little organizational formality. There aren’t any real requirements for joining, and meetings are few or nonexistent.

“It’s very informal. It’s just a matter of paying a fee and joining up,” says Tom Phillips, defacto president of Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild, a club that is all about networking with fellow woodcrafters.

Central Point Woodcarvers is a “social carving group,” according to club member Ron Chappell. About two-thirds of the attendees at weekly Saturday sessions are usually men, although some days the gender breakdown is equal.

Jacksonville Carvers gather every Friday at 10 a.m. in the Woodcarving Place, a carving center operated by Jerry Greer at 255 D. St. The group is informal with no minutes or dues, although contributions to the coffee fund are appreciated. Up to 20 people usually attend the sessions.

“They will bring whatever they are working on, come down and sit around and get help when they need it,” says Greer. The group has been meeting for four years and only does hand carving. Some folks join after taking Greer’s Carving 101 class. The shop also has tools available.

“It’s a growing thing, but it’s a slow growth,” says Greer. “Most of our carvers are senior citizens. They are looking for something to take up some of that time and to give them a new interest to pursue.

“We work with kids — Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts — on the pine box derby,” says Greer.

A little more than 100 people belong to the Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild, says Phillips. There’s a $35 annual membership fee and a general meeting once per year. The membership includes discounts at suppliers, which is a big incentive for many who join, Phillips adds.

“The main purpose of the guild is to network between individuals, typically small-shop or independent craftsmen,” says Phillips. “We try not to do meetings, just because our membership is pretty spread out.”

Club members have a broad range of skill sets, says Phillips. Carvers and craftsmen who make instruments, cabinets or furniture are represented, but membership is open to anyone. Members come from Northern California, along with Klamath, Josephine and Jackson counties.

Shop chats are held that allow members to poke around, ask questions and see what others are up to a couple times in the spring and fall. There’s also a series of classes offered in March and April each year.

The guild’s annual show on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus in Ashland has been a fixture in the valley for years. Displaying at the show doesn’t involve juried competition, says Phillips. Instead, regulars have the first option to display, but newcomers who want to exhibit are worked in, too, he says. A move to the Hay-Patton Rehearsal Center has allowed more room for displays.

“The wonderful thing is if you don’t know how to accomplish something, we can usually connect you with another guild member who has done it before,” says Phillips. “You can pick their brain and get some answers and get pointed in the right direction.”

Central Point Woodcarvers meets each Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Central Point Senior Center. There’s $5 per month charge to defray costs of center use, social activities and occasional training seminars. About 30 people attend regularly.

Woodcarvers are all ages, and children are welcome when accompanied by an adult, says Chappell. Participant brings their own tools. The group has been meeting for 15 years, and an annual show and sale is held in October.

During better weather, power carving machines may be set up outside the center. Some craftsmen carve completely around a piece of wood while others do relief work on one side of a panel. One member specializes in canes and walking sticks. Most members live nearby, and the majority are senior citizens.

More information can be found at siskiyouwoodcraftguild.org and centralpointwoodcarvers.com.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com



John Campbell carves on a wooden picture frame at the Woodcarving Place in Jacksonville. - Andy Atkinson / MAIL TRIBUNE
Ron Chappell, president of Central Point Woodcarvers, shows the front side of a birdhouse he’s creating. - Andy Atkinson / MAIL TRIBUNE