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Published April 14 2012

Woodcarvers embrace charm, imperfection

If you go

What: Red River Valley Woodcarvers Show and Competition

When: 12:30 to 4 p.m. today

Where: Doublewood Inn, 3333 13th Ave. S., Fargo.

Info: (701) 232-8718.

FARGO - Ruth Severson never intended to become a woodcarver.

But then a friend persuaded her to attend a woodcarving workshop, and she fell in love with her instructor, Larry Longtine.

“Our first coffee date lasted five hours,” she recalls, smiling.

And before the (saw)dust had settled, she was carving up a storm. Now she and Longtine plan to turn an old potato warehouse in Moorhead into a woodcarving studio and classroom.

They were among the 40-plus woodcarvers and woodturners who will showcase their work at the Red River Valley Woodcarvers Show and Competition this weekend at the Doublewood Inn, Fargo.

Severson proudly showed several examples of work that she’s produced since she first picked up woodcarving tools three years ago.

They include a small carousel horse, a relief carving in boxelder of a red-headed woman, wood-turned bowls and a stylized pair of lips. Several of them were adorned with blue ribbon awards by Saturday afternoon.

“It isn’t just carving a duck,” she says.

But if birds were your thing, there were plenty of those too. Wes Bartron of West Fargo displayed a handful of carefully made birds – ranging from a small, brown wren to a showier meadowlark – at his table.

Bartron’s body of work also included a dragon, a charmingly curled-up chipmunk and a crappie.

“This is about the only way I can catch a fish,” quipped Bartron, who started his hobby after his retirement 15 years ago.

Bartron routinely uses butternut or fine-grained basswood, which is easy to work with and can be cut to show very fine detail.

But some of the carvers find beauty in woods that others might dismiss.

Representatives of the Minn-Dak Woodturners showed several pieces in which imperfections – like a wood burl or the reddish tint inside a stressed boxelder – had been transformed into objets d’art.

“You never know what you are going to find when you start out with a hunk of wood,” said Minn-Dak member Ryan Hoss.

The Minn-Dak group displayed some of the more unconventional items, including a plate sliced so thin it looked like lace, a hunk of white oak cut to look like coral and a vase that resembled a giant seed pod.

Hoss joked that woodturners are the rebels of the woodcarving world. “We’re power carvers,” he says. “We don’t want to do anything by hand.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525