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Woodcarver gets serious about hobby

August 18, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

ANGEL RIDGE - Ira Adams knows how to do a lot with his hands. He knows how to fix engines and to weld. He has farmed, taking care of cattle and raising tobacco. But his favorite thing to do with his hands is carve, and ironically, one of his favorite things to carve is hands.

When asked how he is able to carve such realistic hands, the 30-year-old Adams, who wears his curly, blondish-brown hair a little below shoulder length, says, "I'd look at my hand and I'd cut."

He started to carve six years ago after finding an inexpensive set of tools at Big Lots.

"I've always been around wood and I used to whittle a little," says Adams, noting that his father was a logger and he saw a lot of potential material while growing up on Fishing Creek.

He still has his first carved piece, a small, but finely crafted hand. The Big Lots tools he used to make it are long gone.

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"They got stolen right after I carved that hand and I didn't carve for six to eight months after that," says Adams, who is a soft-spoken man.

Adams became serious about his craft a few years ago. He found another carving set at Lowe's and has since expanded his collection of carving tools to include thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

His earnestness led him to have his work accepted into the Kentucky Craft Marketing Program. He also is showing his work in Berea in an attempt to join the craftsmen guild there.

"I'd like to make my living doing this. That's why I want to get in the guild, to market my stuff," says Adams, who is dividing his time between carving and working on Joy Vanhook's farm on Angel Ridge.

Being in the marketing program will enable Adams to sell his work for decent prices. For instance, one of the items he showed to be accepted to the state craft program was a walking stick with a snake carved in it. He would price the item at $150.

Another item he submitted was of a snake with an apple. It is part of a trilogy he has planned. The first piece is titled "Temptational Man."

"The second will be a hand that's going to hold an apple with two bites out of it. That's the 'Fall of Man.' The third will be Jesus' foot on the snake's head and that's going to be 'Victory.'"

Another piece he submitted to the state program was a mask that he titled "Sadness."

"My wife and I got divorced and I had started that. I put the down-turned mouth and the empty eyes."

He also submitted a wooden spoon, but the first piece in the trilogy and the face drew the most comments from people jurying work into the marketing program. Judges said things, such as, "Love the snake and do more faces," he said.

Despite the rave reviews of his realistic pieces, Adams also enjoys working with abstract pieces. One uses driftwood he found at Lake Cumberland. He finds it difficult to sand the tiny nooks and crannies of the wood.

"I get to a point where I don't have the right tool to finish them."

Finishing pieces of Adams means getting the pieces smooth so that they look polished. The end products require "lots of sandpaper and elbow grease."

With his father's logging career, Adams knows where to find material for his habit.

"Lots of my big pieces are logging waste," he says. "They'll drag them in and there will be a crooked piece, but that's what I want anyway."

Adams likes working with larger than life-scale items, but the craft program suggests that artists also offer smaller, more affordable items. Adams' answer was tiny alligators that will be sold at the Kentucky Appalachian Center in Hindman and through the Sheltowee Artisans, which automatically admitted him after he was accepted to the state program.

A dolphin he carved will represent Lincoln County crafts at the state fair, and is an example of his smaller work. It is less than a foot tall. He also is sending a carving of a woman's head.

Vanhook is cheering Adams on in his work and enthusiastic about his talent. She was impressed when a friend asked him to create a deer and he was able to make one while looking at a ceramic one. At her request, he also made bookends that look just like the books they hold up.

"If he has a model, I think he can do it," she says.

Adams, who even is willing to make molding for historic homes, agrees.

"I can do almost anything anybody wants me to do."

As Adams branches out in his work, the important thing to him is keep from getting bored.

"I don't like to do repeats. I get bored doing the same thing over and over."

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