TITONKA | For many of the North Iowa Woodcarvers, it was an interest in woodcarving, or learning to wood carve, that drew them to the group, but it’s the friendships they’ve created that have kept them around.
Some months, others years, and few decades.
“You meet a lot of people, a lot of good people,” said Jim Meyering of Woden, who’s been carving since 1986.
Meyering was one of about 10 men and women from a four-county area who gathered at the Buffalo Creek Activity Center in Titonka on Monday, Oct. 16, for the monthly North Iowa Woodcarvers meeting.
The Woodcarvers meet at 7:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month from September to June.
“Experience is not a requirement,” said Keith Goetz, North Iowa Woodcarvers president. “The idea of the club is to introduce people to woodcarving.”
That’s done through wood crafts and shared techniques and ideas.
Amy Frankl and Mark Bonnstetter of Algona started woodcarving in February with the help of Bruce Meurer, a longtime North Iowa Woodcarvers member, who showcased some of his work with the Stinson Prairie Arts Council.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, so I asked him one time if he knew where I could get any classes,” said Frankl, a member of the Stinson Prairie Arts Council in Algona. “He said he could teach me the basics, so that’s what we did.”
Frankl and Bonnstetter took classes from Meurer once a week for nearly two months learning about different woods, tools and techniques before he brought them to their first Woodcarvers meeting.
“The club is neat because everyone supports each other, and that motivates you more,” Frankl said.
And because there are a variety of techniques to use in woodcarving, everyone is bound to find one they are able to do and enjoy.
Bonnstetter said woodcarving is one of those hobbies “you get out of it what you put into it.”
Herb Olson of Forest City, who has been a woodcarver since 1989, attended his first meeting in “a long time” in October.
“We’re happy to see him,” Meyering said with a smile.
Olson’s specialty is realistic human busts.
“It’s a great hobby because you can pick it up, work on it for five minutes or you can work on it for five hours and you can put it down and come back to it next week,” he said. “When you finish something, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”
Olson said he’s finished carving a lot of realistic human busts since he began in the late 1980s, and he’s hoping to get more finished now that he’s returned to North Iowa Woodcarvers.
“I’ve known Jim ever since I started, and they’re a great bunch of people,” he said. “If you don’t know how to do something, carving an eye or something on a face or some kind of carving, somebody will show you how to do it.”
Meyering added, “We’re ready to help. If you want to learn, we’re ready to help.”
Marie Thompson of Mason City who was carving her grandchildren’s Christmas ornaments across from Melvin Mitchell, also of Mason City, said she’s been carving since the late 1990s.
“I enjoy that it’s not housework, and it stays done when it’s done,” she said.
Mitchell, who likes chip-carving, said it’s the people he’s met, and the friendships he’s made, over the years that have made woodcarving enjoyable.
Goetz said the North Iowa Woodcarvers has about 15 members, which is down significantly from its peak of 60 members.
“We just have gotten older,” he said. “Our club has gone down in numbers, like all the wood-carving clubs, but we invite others, especially the younger generation, to come and try it with us.”