A latecomer to the art of woodcarving, Shelly Weiser is making up for lost time.
The 85-year-old Naperville resident spent the last 10 years learning and carving. Now he shares his love for the art and his skills by teaching.
"I started carving at age 75, which is a little older than most people start," Weiser said.
It was a visit to a local wood carving show that inspired him to seek advice from a local woodcarver from the North Suburban Wood Carvers Club. The wood figures fascinated him, and he knew he wanted to learn more. He joined the club and sought out one-on-one tutoring with carver J. R. Cadawas in Chicago.
"I didn't know I had it in me," said Weiser, adding that his skills really took off with the help of Cadawas.
He credits his success to the time he has spent with Cadawas at his studio on the west side of Chicago.
Prior to retirement, Weiser worked in retail for Neiman Marcus in Chicago. He spent most of his days talking to customers and selling merchandise. He says he always loved art, but he didn't realize he had the talent to create art. Then he went to his first woodcarving show, and his inner artist was released.
He attends local woodcarving shows where he sells his art and has amassed a sizable collection of award ribbons. He teaches carving to children at the Naperville Park District and is one of the 10 active members of the Naperville Wood Carving Club.
Weiser said he likes the realism of carving human figures and animals, getting his ideas from magazines, photographs and drawings. Most of the work he does is on a larger scale than most. It's not uncommon for his carvings to reach 3 feet tall.
Weiser's Naperville home is filled with his carvings. His home also hosts a small workshop where he does most of the finishing touches.
"I love carving, and when I'm not carving, I'm thinking about carving" Weiser said. "I'm always thinking about the next piece that I'll be working on."