My father and grandfather handed down being able to draw and paint. Both were artists and perfectionists, in their own right. My love for wood and working with my hands grew from playing in my grandfather’s lumberyard in Hampton Bays, NY. He taught me how to use tools, choose lumber and to be precise. Woodcarving started with an infatuation for duck decoys. Their beauty, colors and realism intrigued me. With an invitation from a local woodcarvers club in the late 80s, I was handed a block of wood, a knife and told to carve a bear (I still have that original carving from that night). That led to a series of duck carvings and songbirds. Later in life my inspiration shifted after seeing a carving by Fraser Smith. I knew then what I wanted to aspire to, in my own way.
My two favorite kinds of carving woods are Tupelo and Basswood. Both are traditional duck carving woods. Tupelo comes from the Southeastern part of the US. It’s known for its ability to hold detail, whether using hand or power tools. Basswood is a North American species, mainly from the Northeast. It’s known as Lime wood in Britain. It’s a soft wood, with little grain and highly manipulative. I’ll use other woods from time-to-time, when requested. I finish my carvings with an assortment of materials; stains, acrylics, oils, milk paints to name a few.
Time to complete a woodcarving, always depends on the complexity of the subject matter. On average a baseball hat takes about 50 hours to complete. Something as complex as a shoe, can take 200 or more hours. Most time is spent in planning the foundational cuts of a piece. Making sure you leave enough wood to get to the next level of detail, to ensure realism. Once the carving portion is done, I always sit with a piece for a few days before painting or staining. That’s the last big step. Before I apply a brushstroke, I need to be fully committed to my final design.
“I’ve also started to explore other methods of working with wood. I’m now turning bowls on a lathe and carving wooden spoons using traditional tools like an axe and spoon knives.”
I get to create and work with wood in a hundred year old Barn. It’s truly a unique and inspiring experience. We’re slowly bringing it back to life, dating back to the early 1900s (that we can find on record), with a story that goes something like this.
The Story and History of 516 W. Hunt St & The Barn
Our property goes back to the Republic of Texas, where 3,129 acres were granted as a “land Patent” to William Davis as recognition for his participation in the battle for Texas independence, in 1841. Brothers James and William Rhea, local mill owners, purchased part of this land (Block 49) in 1894 and subdivided it into four lots, known as the W.A. Rhea Addition. Our property at 516 W. Hunt St occupied Lot 3 of this subdivision. In 1894 W.H. Sims purchased Lot 3 for $800. W.H. Sims worked as a Wells-Fargo Express agent and City Treasurer and built a wood frame house and the Barn around 1900 on this property. In 1906 Sims sold the property to William Ticknor who worked as a pump engineer and joined a new company called The Texas Company, which later became Texaco.
In 1909, Ticknor was relocated and sold the home to George Wilson for $3,000. Wilson was a stockman, farmer and gin operator, a member of one of Collin County’s most influential pioneer families. Then in 1913, P.R. Westmoreland purchased the home for $2,500 cash and a $1,500 note. Westmoreland was a groceryman. He and his wife Emma lived in the home alone until 1925 when they razed it to build a new two-story brick home in its place. This is the house that stands today. It’s believed that Westmoreland used the Barn to store his horses and grocery supplies, as he came to own two grocery stores on the McKinney Square. It’s also believed that one of his stores is where Mellow Mushroom is located today. The Westmorelands lived in the house into the 1960s, where they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
The Barn still stands today. It’s been slightly modified over the years, but its spirit still holds true. It’s now where I carve and create. It’s a special and unique place that deserves to be honored. The Barn will be open for MAST for anyone to come see my work, experience the setting and hear the story.