ICC hosts adult woodcarving course, starting May 4

Published 10:00 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

Trees meet their demise in a variety of ways, but master woodcarvers like Mark Henneberry help a spirit living in that wood to speak to us.

Early settlers, including Native Americans, found in the diverse forest in this region, means of providing game and fish, shelter, firewood, and the enduring spirit of trees.

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“The lore is that every tree has a spirit inside it, and the carver lets the spirit out,” said Henneberry who teaches an adult woodcarving course at Isothermal Community College, Columbus.

The next course begins Thursday, May 4, and meets once a week for six weeks. Classes run from 1-4 p.m. Cost for the course is $90.

Henneberry, who lives in the enchanted land of forests and waterfalls near Brevard, notes that his class focuses on wood spirit carving.

“I love the environment. That’s what brought me here,” said Henneberry, nearly all of whose carvings are made from downed trees he finds while hiking or driving.

“I absolutely love to hike,” he emphasized.

Wood spirit figures produced by master woodcarver Mark Henneberry, whose beginning woodcarving class starts Thursday, May 4 at Isothermal Community College, Columbus. (photos by Mark Schmerling)

Henneberry’s love of carving goes back to his youth.

“When I was a kid,” he said, “I always had a passion for it.” Maybe not coincidentally, Henneberry’s formal woodcarving training took place at Isothermal.

Of the woodcarving process, Henneberry said, “It’s neat to be part of it, teaching it to others.”

Every student in Henneberry’s class will leave with a carving. Beginners and more experienced carvers are welcome to study with Henneberry, who will teach the wide range of cuts used to carve wood spirits, and which tools to use for specific cuts. Henneberry will cover safety, tool sharpening and wood selection.

Class size is limited. Contact the ICC Polk Center office at 828-894-3092, for a list of required supplies before the first day of class. Students interested in advanced carving classes with Don Blackwell (from whom Henneberry received his first formal woodcarving training) are required to take this, or an equivalent class.

Advanced students are welcome to bring a current project to work on while beginning carvers learn the basics.

Each student will leave with a carving. Henneberry will focus on the wood spirit, or mountain folk art style, of carving.

“If you ask what kind of carver I am,” Henneberry said, “I’m a folk art carver.”

Henneberry’s class will emphasize safety right off.

“Lesson one in this class is ‘Don’t cut toward your hand.’”

Henneberry’s class will focus on the use of simple tools, so students can decide if they wish to further pursue the craft. These will be palm tools that class members will use to push into the wood, away from themselves. Henneberry will not teach (though he practices) mallet carving, where one strikes larger cutting tools with a mallet.

“It will cost a couple hundred dollars (in tools) to start,” he said of the hobby. Of course, those tools will always be there for students to keep using, and Henneberry’s instruction will include sharpening and other care.

“You can come in and carve something in a relatively short time. Come in spend a few hours, and have something to show.”

Finding a craft that focuses on releasing the energy from a piece of wood involves “something spiritually healthy,” smiled Henneberry.

One aspect that drives Henneberry is “to introduce people to something I love, and hope they love it, too.”

While Henneberry prefers certain varieties of wood for certain types of carving, he notes that you can carve any wood if your tools are sharp and you’ve got the patience.

Some of Henneberry’s favored woods are red oak (very hard when dry), cedar, and paulownia, a softer wood.

“I think it’s great that the college is keeping woodcarving alive.”