Union Grove School of Fine Woodcarving
History of the Union Grove School of Fine Woodcarving
The Union Grove School of Fine Woodcarving is the “tongue in cheek” name of a group of woodcarvers that meet regularly in Carl’s shop/garage in Union Grove WI. The group started as an offspring of carving classes offered through the Wisconsin DNR and taught by Fred Zindars at the Bong Recreational Area in southeast Wisconsin. Carl Boyer and Paul & Barb Miller were getting together to share their expertise and experiences from carving a miniature American Coot that Fred had instructed them on. During a later class on a Lesser Scaup, Denny Bell joined them, both at Bong and at the Union Grove meeting place.
Denny was also attending carving instruction classes at the Kenosha Museum taught by Clarence Blanchard with a college friend, Paul Wade. It wasn’t too long before Paul was encouraged to join in the revelry at Union Grove. By this time, the meetings in Carl’s shop had progressed from a group of “wanna-be carvers” carving on planks straddling an old scaffold to a group of “would-be carvers” with a real table! Before long, padded chairs with wheels were added and Keith Lerhke, Bill Burnett, Gene Calligure and Ray Parent joined the group. Periodically, some of the local itinerant carvers would stop in for an evening or for a few evenings in their quest for knowledge. Before long, the Union Grove School of Fine Woodcarving was born!
To maintain this rapid growth in enrollment, Citronella candles were put in place to ward off the infamous “Wisconsin Mosquito”, heat was added to the classroom and OWD air conditioning (open windows & doors) was put in place. As an added inducement to prospective students, electric outlets were provided at each worktable (there is only one). As though this were not enough, the Faculty, which consisted of Carl, surged ahead. Soon a coffee pot and a refrigerator appeared. Carl’s lovely wife, Betty, was coerced into baking cookies and other delectable snacks for the hungry horde waiting in the shop, er, classroom. Other wives, apparently feeling sorry for the overworked scholars, began providing snacks as well. We could always tell when Betty popped the cookies out of the oven… this would somehow awaken Paul Wade from his deepest “thoughts” with a snap!
Eventually some of the group began to get acknowledged for their years of work… Paul Wade got a “BC” (Bachelor of Carving) as Head Sawyer for his fine work in cutting out patterns and carving blanks. Carl advanced to a PGC (Pretty Good Carver) while his wife Betty was awarded an HRP (Head Ruddy Painter) for her work cleaning up after Carl. The others continued working on cats, mice, fish and ducks in hopes of someday reaching the coveted level of “something”.
The tradition continues today as Carl is contemplating indoor plumbing and class field trips to exotic places of carving history like Oconomowoc (they have a large carving of a bear there) and Princeton (future home of Paul Miller’s soon to be legendary Carving Shoppe). The lines are already forming as he works to entice Joyce Levandowski from her job as “Fred’s Painting Instructor” to a lucrative new position (yet to be named) at UGSFW. In the meantime, dunnage from one of Carl’s trucker friends and other beams and logs pile up around the campus, waiting to take their place in history as Pintails, Mallards or possibly even the much envied Goose-Goose!