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posted: 2/28/2010 12:01 AM

Batavia woodcarvers mark 25 years with show

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  • M.L. Brown of Plano chips away at a dark walnut mantle carving of a steam locomotive during the Batavia Woodcarving Club's show to celebrate their 25th anniversary on Saturday.

      M.L. Brown of Plano chips away at a dark walnut mantle carving of a steam locomotive during the Batavia Woodcarving Club's show to celebrate their 25th anniversary on Saturday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Bob Hawse started carving wood as a Boy Scout in Batavia sometime around 1930.

On Saturday, the fruits of his 80 years of craftsmanship were arrayed on a display table in front of him: black mallard earrings, tiny Scandinavian-style Santa Clauses, gnarly polished walking sticks and other curiosities.

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Hawse, who recently marked his 90th year in a celebration at the Homstad retirement community in Batavia, sat quietly against the wall of the Batavia Congregational Church, observing hundreds of guests and receiving visitors with a handshake and soft voice.

None of the roughly 400 guests would have been there without Hawse, who started the Batavia Woodcarving Club in his garage 25 years ago. To mark the anniversary, the club decided to hold its first show on Saturday.

The show featured more than 30 carvers displaying their work and doing demonstrations throughout the day.

"We've never had a show, and Bob wanted to have a show, so that's what we did," said Geneva carver Dick MacFeely, who helped organize the event. "It's informational, entertaining and artistic."

One of the carvers was Dick Archias, a Geneva resident and one of the woodcarving club's charter members. Archias started carving 61 years ago, shortly after he got married.

"I wanted to keep my hands busy," Archias said. "I've been carving ever since."

Unlike some other carvers, who focus on elaborate designs, birds or other specific themes, Archias' creations run the gamut from meticulously detailed wildlife to kachina dolls, representations of Pueblo Indian spirits that are among Archias' favorite subjects.

"There's an air of mystery about it and enchantment," says the 86-year-old Archias. He gives Hawse credit for helping him refine his technique. "He's a patternmaker by trade, an artist. He taught all of us a lot of things."

Hawse, who never expected the club to last as long as it has, reflected on a lifetime of carving.

"It's a great hobby. You get a sharp knife and a piece of wood, you can make anything," Hawse said, as he took in the sights and sounds of the show. "I've been around some of these shows, and this is as good as I've ever seen."

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