AUGUSTA — Richard Nickerson’s wood carving of a Cedar Waxwing perched on a berry branch appeared ready to take flight, one reason there was a first-place blue ribbon near its base.

Nickerson’s carving was one of many on display Friday at the 32nd State of Maine Sportsman’s Show at the Augusta Ciivc Center. They were judged that morning by members of the Maine Wood Carvers Association and will be on display through the show’s conclusion Sunday.

Nickerson got his start in wood carving just nine years ago while attending the Sportsman’s Show.

The 73-year-old retired trucking company owner from Brunswick received a hands-on demonstration and has been hooked ever since. Nickerson sat at a table Friday carving another Cedar Waxwing from a block of basswood.

“There’s very little grain in it so you can carve both ways,” Nickerson said. “Pine is soft but pretty splintery.”

Nickerson belongs to the Coastal Carvers, a chapter of the state association that meets once a month.

“There’s everything there from professionals to people that have never picked up a knife before,” he said. “They help everybody out and they bring you along.”

Nickerson describes himself as an intermediate carver and is well aware of the hierarchy among Maine carvers, listing Ed Beach, Gordon Howe and Jim Wade, among others. Their reputation lies not only in their ability but their attention to detail. Judges see what the average onlooker almost always misses.

Are the tail feathers and beak in correct proportion to the body of a Cedar Waxwing, for instance? And is the coloring right? Beauty counts, but so does authenticity.

Painting his products is just as difficult as carving them, if not more.

Nickerson recently enrolled in an art class to learn more about mixing and creating colors. In practicing his hobby, Nickerson has learned a lot about his subjects. For instance, Cedar Waxings will pluck a berry from a branch and pass it from bird to bird as they sit along a telephone wire.

“They pass it back and forth until one of them swallows it, then they fly down and pick up another berry,” he said. “It’s like a game.”

Not every wood carving is authentic. Nickerson had a Smokey the Bear replica on his table as well as a duck’s head attached to the head of a wooden golf club.

“Carving is whatever you want it to be,” he said.

The wood carvings on display are just a tiny portion of the Sportman’s Show, which includes 130 exhibits in the main auditorium and over 100 seminars and stage shows. Wood carvers take center stage in August at the Maine Wood Carvers show at the Augusta Armory.

As is the case at the Sportman’s Show, entries must have been created within the past year.

Creations can take a couple of hours to many days. Nickerson said he put in many hours on his award-winning Cedar Waxing, although he didn’t keep track. Most of the carvings were for sale at fairly modest prices, but earning money has little to do with hobby.

“I enjoy carving, I enjoy entering stuff,” Nickerson said. “But let’s just say I enjoy the people.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]


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