A niche hobby: Carvers share knowledge of their craft

Mick Brown basically grew up with a pocketknife.

His advice to parents: Don’t worry about kids and knives.

“They don’t bleed long,” Brown said, sort of joking, sort of not. “They heal up.”

Brown has been a member of the Quilceda Carvers since 1990, but had a talent for turning wood into pieces of art since he was kid, whittling airplanes and boats, and helping out in his dad’s cabinet-making shop in Washougal on the Columbia River.

Brown, who lives in south Everett, will be showing off his talents this weekend at the Quilceda Carvers 27th annual Artistry in Wood show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

Brown will display his wood projects, including American Indian-inspired salmon carvings and other animals.

But more than showing off — he said he’s got a great big container of prizes he keeps in a closet — Brown said he enjoys the mission of the Quilceda Carvers.

“Our main goal is to share the craft,” Brown, 87, said. “It really is quite reasonable to get into. You just need a simple little knife and a glove, and it’s a fun hobby.”

Since the nonprofit started in 1971, Quilceda Carvers, based in Marysville, has been promoting the art of woodcarving by providing classes and demonstrating woodcarving around the county.

For instance, Brown visits Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett in the winter and brings wooden cutouts of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and snowmen for children to paint.

Every Tuesday morning, Brown is at the Snohomish Senior Center where a group of eight or 10 gather and carve where the public can observe and ask questions.

Brown shares his knowledge easily. He offers such tips as suggesting that bass wood is the softest and easiest wood to carve and that if you are using power tools, you would be wise to use harder woods such as ebony or black walnut.

Brown’s favorite subjects are animals, which he decorates with abalone shells or arrowheads. He’s sold some pieces and has given away many as well.

He’ll also bring a collection of his canes and walking sticks to the show.

The Quilceda Carvers show is billed as one of the largest woodcarving shows on the West Coast.

The show’s featured artist this year is Jim Johnson, a retired wildlife biologist for the state of New Mexico.

Johnson said growing up, all the neighbor kids carried pocket knives. “We used them in various ways but not on each other as they sometimes do today.”

Johnson said he took up carving as a hobby after he retired and joined a woodcarving group to help launch new carvers.

Today, Johnson joked that he mainly “draws blood and puts on Band-Aids” but likes to carve unusual caricatures such as “Ichi-Crow,” a bird holding a baseball bat between his wings.

“It’s all an art form,” said Johnson who lives in Anacortes. “Just handling the tools is an art in itself.”

Johnson, who last year at 80-plus years old went skydiving for the first time, said he’ll be bringing his tools and something to carve during the show.

Johnson said he’s happy to share what he knows with visitors and likes watching the joy of young carvers who finish a project.

“I tell the kids to remember those things are sharp and, like any tool, you have to treat it with respect,” Johnson said. “And always have an extra Band-Aid.”

Artistry in Wood

Quilceda Carvers 27th annual Artistry in Wood: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Evergreen State Fairgrounds, 14405 179th Ave. SE, Monroe. A $5 donation is requested. Children under 12 and Scouts in uniform are admitted free. The event includes a juried art show, vendors, and demonstrations including chain-saw carving and cowboy caricatures, and a raffle. All visitors receive a carving goodie bag. For more information go to www.quilcedacarvers.org.

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