Woodcarvers create camaraderie as they build art

While sitting behind a table full of evergreen tree sculptures, Sandy Jennings was in the midst of carving another. The wood shavings fell to the floor as she methodically sculpted scalloped edges for the tree's leaves.

Jennings was one of the wood carvers at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich Nov. 28 for a show by the North Suburban Carvers.

The group has been in existence for 30 years and consists of about 118 men and women from around northern Illinois and Wisconsin. The members carve everything from holiday ornaments to large figureheads.

"We have a good time," said Shelly Weiser, a Naperville resident and the club's president. "We meet twice a month, carve and socialize."

Terri Pijut of Lake in the Hills, the club's librarian, said it's a friendly group. She said the club has members of all agesranging from 9 to 90but the majority are adults.

Pijut said skills levels also vary. There are members like Broadview's John Henderson, who said he's been woodcarving since he was a child, and carvers like Weiser who only started carving a few years ago.

"I started carving when I was 75," Weiser said. "I came to one of [the Carvers'] shows. I always thought about carving. I took lessons from one of the members and I loved it. Now I do all different kinds of carving."

Jennings of Glen Ellyn is also a newcomer to woodcarving.

"I didn't think I could do it," she said. "Shelly teaches kids and I saw them doing it and I thought I can do that.'"

Jennings said she started from understanding nothing about carving to it now being a passion.

The carvers' work and subject matters are wide-ranging as are the styles in which they carve. Pijut said a few of the styles include relief work, caricatures and realistic sculptures.

Weiser said he's found inspiration in photographs and knick-knacks around people's homes.

Lake Zurich's Gene Gregory found the root ball of a plant and knew right away he was going to create something out of it. The piece evokes different images for different people, he said.

"I pick up the wood and think about what I want to do, but I go with the flow," Jennings said. "You will see so much variety."

The time it takes to create a carving is another aspect that varies.

"Someone can say something took 10 weeks but they only carved a couple hours a day," Pijut said.

There are also times, she said, when a carver can get engrossed in carving and spend all night working on a piece.

"There's nothing fast in the way I do it [carve]," Jennings said. "I do it for the art."

The North Suburban Carvers welcome new members. The group meets from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first and third Monday of the month at the Deer Grove Leisure Center, 1000 Wood St., Bensenville. Dues are $20 for individuals and $35 for a family membership.

The members of the North Suburban Carvers have created holiday ornaments that they are selling for charity. Profits will go to the Shriners Children's Hospital.

The carvers will have a table at the Woodworking Show Dec. 11-13 at the Renaissance Center, 1551 N. Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg.

For more information, go to

By Heather Leszczewicz, reporter

Share this story