The intricate art of woodcarving is a craft some spend their whole life practicing, but Shelly Weiser didn’t get his start until he was 75 years old.
“My wife and I always loved art. We were actually members of the Palette and Chisel on the north side of Chicago – it’s an old mansion filled with galleries and studios. I always liked going there, and my wife painted,” said Weiser. “But I never did anything in art, never put into practice, I just liked it.”
Today, his apartment is filled with his own work – statues of cowboys and horses, a panel of hummingbirds, and much more.
It resembles the woodcarving gallery that inspired him to join a club and begin learning the art – a process that included the unique opportunity to study under a master carver from the Philippines, JR Cadawas.
“I started carving with him and he was my mentor, he taught me about the tools, everything I know. I went once a week and that’s what really started me,” said Weiser. “It’s all thanks to this one man.”
Shelly finds inspiration in a variety of places – he’s scaled small statues up and sketched his own designs for reliefs.
For a six-sculpture series of art-deco dancers, he found a library book about French dancers and made copies of photographs he liked.
Then he went to work bringing those two-dimensional pictures to life as a 3D sculpture.
“Taken from photographs, you just see one side of it, just the front of it. So I had to figure out how to do the rear since they’re three-dimensional. I had to figure out how in the world the dress goes in the back, all these things you have to figure out,” he explained.
And Shelly has been sharing his skills by teaching Naperville Park District woodcarving classes to kids and seniors for over 10 years.
He brings the wood and tools; they bring a willingness to learn.
“They love it, and I love teaching them. Parents still come to me saying ‘this is wonderful, kids can’t wait until they come to class,’ said Weiser.
In the 16 years between ages 75 and 91, Shelly started woodcarving, became accomplished, and began sharing his knowledge with anyone who wants to learn.
Showing it’s never too late to pick up a new passion.
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.
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