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Published May 17 2013

Local woodworking artists display their wares at new Moorhead shop

MOORHEAD - With his white beard and dressed in dusty boots and denim overalls, Larry Longtine certainly looks the part of a woodcarver as he stands near the sleek, to-scale carousel horse he made.

A carving project of that magnitude can be intimidating.

“You have to think about one part at a time, then they aren’t so bad,” Longtine said.

It’s the biggest piece he’s ever made but not the first. He’s been carving for more than 30 years.

“Technically, I started because I wanted a duck decoy and I was too cheap to buy one,” said Longtine, 70.

He’s come a long way since then, opening a woodcarving/woodturning store and workshop.

Longtine and fellow woodcarver/woodturner Ruth Severson opened In The Chips at 303 21st St. N. in Moorhead in April. Longtine is the landlord and rents out space to In The Chips. Severson is the In The Chips’ retail business owner. Woodcarver/wood sculptor Barry Kutzer fills the role of artist-in-residence at the shop.

In The Chips features wood pieces for sale and others that are on display. Subjects for the wood art at In The Chips range from decorative wall pieces, human busts and bowls to plates, Santas and trolls.

The store also sells woodcarving and woodturning tools, and offers dozens of books and pamphlets on woodcarving and woodturning.

While the focus of the shop is wood art, In The Chips carries other items such as pottery, some of which is done by Severson, who also creates stained-glass works.

“I’m kind of a jack of all trades,” said Severson, who was a nurse for 45 years.

In addition to offering wood art for sale, In The Chips offers patrons an opportunity to watch how the art is created.

“I welcome people coming and watching,” Kutzer said. “If anyone is interested enough to want to come here and watch me, then I’m very interested in having them do so.”

Kutzer has been carving for 13 years. He frequently, though not exclusively, creates busts. The former band director at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton started carving walking sticks out of diamond willow and thought he’d dress them up a bit.

“Well, the faces that I was putting on them kind of resembled those stone statues on Easter Island,” the 66-year-old said, laughing. “They were really ugly, and so I thought to myself, well, you know, if I’m going to do this, I should learn to do it right.”

He turned to the local woodcarvers club and found more-experienced carvers who were willing to lend a hand.

“That’s the nice thing about carvers. There’s very few egos,” Kutzer said. “They’re always willing to help. They’re willing to share what they know with younger carvers, with inexperienced carvers.”

Even though he’s now an artist-in-residence at the shop, he’s still growing as a carver.

“You can learn a lot just listening to these guys who have been carving twice as long as I have and sometimes more than that,” he said. “So you’re foolish not to sit around and pick their brain a little bit.”

Kutzer believes woodcarving deserves the same respect afforded other art forms.

“I think for a long time, woodcarving has been kind of a poor cousin in the art community,” he said. “It’s never been really accepted by other visual artists. And I would like to change that.

“I think what we do is equally as artistic as anything a painter puts on canvas or a glass blower does or a sculptor or a potter.”

Kutzer creates the work despite having rheumatoid arthritis. It means adjusting carving techniques.

“You know, I don’t really think about it a lot,” he said. “I do what I have to do to make it work for me.”

Besides the spaces where wood art is sold and displayed, In The Chips has a wood workshop. Open carving is offered afternoons and evenings on Thursdays.

“And if you don’t want to carve, you can just come and drink coffee and talk,” said Severson, 68.

The MinnDak Woodturners meet at In The Chips at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, and offers demonstrations at each meeting.

The Red River Valley Woodcarvers meet the first Sunday of each month, with open carving at 12:30 p.m. and a business meeting at 2 p.m.

Severson said she wants the place to make a profit, but that’s not her main goal.

“Our focus is more to help and encourage people into the turning and the carving, and, like I said, we’ll teach and do that type of thing,” she said. “It was getting so that it was mostly older gentlemen that were doing it, and they’re dying off.”

Severson said one of the misconceptions is that only men carve and only men turn.

“Well, no, they don’t,” she said. “We have women in both groups. And it’s not exclusively a man’s club.”

Longtine hopes that someone will eventually take over the shop and continue the work of In The Chips. He hopes it will survive “two generations past me.”

But, along with working to encourage the craft, it also sounds like the folks at In The Chips are just having a good time.

“We both tried retirement,” Severson said of Longtine and herself, “and we decided this was more fun.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734


About the business

What: In The Chips

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6:30 Wednesday through Saturday; by appointment

Location: 303 21st St. N., Moorhead

Phone: (218) 233-6000

If you go

What: Open carving

When: 1 to 9 p.m. Thursdays

Where: In The Chips, 303 21st St. N., Moorhead

What: MinnDak Woodturners meeting

When: 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month

Where: In The Chips, 303 21st St. N., Moorhead

What: Red River Valley Woodcarvers meeting

When: First Sunday of each month; open carving at 12:30 p.m. and a business meeting at 2 p.m.

Where: In The Chips, 303 21st St. N., Moorhead