River Bend Carving Club member and education coordinator Ron Wickman works with one of the students during a Saturday morning beginning carving class at River Bend Nature Center.
A few years ago, the members of the River Bend Carving Club pondered what they could do re-energize their 35-year-old club. They came up with an idea to start beginner classes for kids and it’s evolved into twice a month intergenerational sessions of fun with wood for both the members and the students.
Club member Ron Wickman heads up the classes, which are conducted on a drop-in basis for children 10 and over accompanied by a parent or guardian. All adults are also welcome.
The club makes it really easy for everyone to participate because the wood and tools are provided, along with instruction by experienced carvers, for a cost of just $3 per person.
Wickman, who began carving 25 years ago, explained that beginners get started by learning basic knife cuts on a wooden practice stick. Next the students progress to a relief carving using a patterned wood blank and often go home with a completed piece at the end of their first session.
During subsequent visits, students are welcome to work on pieces of their choosing, utilizing starter relief or 3D blanks for Christmas designs, little birds, mice, whales and more.
“You don’t have to be artistic to make something beautiful out of wood,” Wickman said.
A display of a variety of finished pieces made by members gives the students additional inspiration and guidance.
Students are also welcome to borrow books about wood carving from the club’s extensive library.
Advanced students also have access to the wood burners and Dremel tools for power carving.
David Niles and his three sons, Xander, 13; Zane,11 and Ezekiel, 9, attended a recent carving session. They each worked on their own projects on a work table illuminated with shop lights.
“The kids like it and it’s great that everything we need is provided,” David Niles said.
If students would like to take their projects home, the club has starter tool sets available for purchase at 40 percent off the retail prices – thanks to deals they’ve negotiated with the manufacturers.
In addition to the students, members of the club also come to the Saturday sessions to work on their own projects and welcome students to watch them work and ask questions.
The club’s $20 annual membership dues include unlimited sessions. New members are always welcome.
The club holds membership meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at River Bend. They gather at 6 p.m. for an informal carving session with refreshments. At the business meeting, there are often demonstrations and if not, members enjoy a social hour which generally breaks up by 8:30 p.m.
Several longtime members bring a wealth of experience to the club. Some show their work extensively at art shows, while others have been generous with their talents to make trail signs for River Bend Nature Center and canes for veterans.
While the club supports the River Bend Nature Center, it’s a separate nonprofit organization. Contributions can be sent to the River Bend Carving Club, 3600 N. Green Bay Road, Racine, WI 53404. For more information, call River Bend Nature Center at (262) 639-1515, email info@RiverBendNatureCenterRacine.org or visit RiverBendRacine.org.