WHITEWATER — As children came into Whitewater Memorial Library Friday afternoon, they quickly found a place to sit or stand and watch the three men who wielded carving tools, spreading wood shavings on the floor as they turned blocks of wood into the figures of animals, people or objects.
The members of the Great Plains Wood Carvers explained the details of their craft, showing their audience examples of birds, wildlife and caricatures they had created.
"We're here to show how to pick up a knife and carve," said Bob Cain.
Whitewater Memorial Library Director Jean Thiessen said she invited different creative groups and individuals to give "Artist Alley" demonstrations each Friday afternoon during the library's summer reading program. "Artist Alley" featured artisans who produced items using techniques such as crochet, leather working and bead weaving.
As they began their presentation, the GPWC members handed out carved wooden owls to each child, showing how the pieces only took a few seconds of carving from start to finish.
"We carve with bass wood, for most of the time," Cain noted.
Bob Munroe asked the children if they were wood carvers. Some replied they had never tried wood carving, while some said they had a pocketknife they would use occasionally.
"We're looking for members," Cain said with a laugh. "We've got enough old ones, we're looking for some young ones so they can grow with the club."
As the children grew brave enough to give wood carving a try, Munroe slipped a glove on the child's hand.
"We always wear the Kevlar gloves so we don't cut our fingers off," Cain explained to the children. "It's just like what meat packers would wear."
Roy Hosie showed off several of his creations, including a pair of pliers made of a single piece of wood. He also ran a stick over the back of a hollow wooden frog to make it croak. The same action made his wooden cricket sound like it was chirping.
Some of the wood carvings the GPWC members displayed were works in progress; some were colored using acrylic or oil paints, or stained with polyurethane to give them a glossy finish. Birds, turtles, gnomes and cougars were among the pieces set out to show those interested what a piece of wood could become with a little practice and effort.
Once a year, Great Plains Wood Carvers holds an exhibition at the Cessna Activity Center in Wichita during which wood carvers bring pieces to be judged.
"We include sculpture people and some wood turners," Cain said.
Great Plains Wood Carvers is a Wichita-based group that got its start in the 1940s.
"We've got about 40 members. We meet twice a month — one is a business meeting and one is a carving meeting," Cain said. "We encourage people to come see us and join the group."
For more information about the Great Plains Wood Carvers club, visit http://www.greatplainswoodcarvers.com or call GPWC President Ed Redwine at 316-734-8161.