Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 14)

O U T D O O R S L by Jason Jenkins ike books on a library shelf, each scar on Dan Brueggeman’s left hand tells a story. Select a volume, and he can tell you the tale behind each self-inflicted wound. Such injuries are an occupational hazard. For nearly 30 years, Dan’s earned a living by transforming ordinary blocks of wood into realistic carvings depicting some of nature’s most intricate creatures. His award-winning sculptures can be found in galleries and private collections across the country. However, a career as an artist wasn’t what Dan planned growing up on a farm in the Missouri River bottoms near Chesterfield. Enamored with the outdoors, he longed for a career in conservation. After attending the University of Missouri, he trained to become a conservation agent in 1977. While he enjoyed his time as an agent, it wasn’t long before he realized the job was not his true calling; he left the department in 1981. Dan’s journey into the realm of fine-art woodcarving began the next year when he and his wife, Barb, took a trip to Silver Dollar City for the park’s annual fall crafts festival. “There was a good ol’ Cajun boy from down south of New Orleans, and he was carving ducks,” recalls the 59-year-old. “He had this wood duck carving, and it was gorgeous. I just fell in love with it.” What Dan wasn’t in love with, however, was the $900 price tag the Cajun had placed on his handiwork. It was a hefty price to pay for anything in 1982, especially for a 28-year-old. “Barb told me, ‘If you like it so much, make your own,’” he says. “So for Christmas that year, she got me some knives and a book on how to carve, and that got me started.” Dan quickly realized a talent he didn’t know was hidden inside him. Though his first carving — a blue-winged teal, its head crafted from a chunk of 2-by-4 — was by no means “fine art,” it was the proof of concept Dan needed to embark on a new career. Throughout 1983, he began carving on a part-time basis and by 1984, he decided to devote himself completely to his newfound passion. During the remainder of the 1980s, Dan learned the ins and outs of the art business. For a time, he toured with Silver Dollar City’s traveling artisans show. He discovered where the best art shows were around the country and began developing clientele. All the while, his carving technique continued to evolve and improve. Though ducks and waterfowl were Dan’s initial muse for his carvings, the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative member needs only to look out the window of his studio to find inspiration. Nestled amongst 11 wooded acres in southern Cole County, the carver is surrounded by deer, turkey and songbirds of every feather. The yips and yaps of the local coyote pack echo through the trees on full-moon nights. “There’s a lot of carvers who really specialize in things, but I guess I get bored too easily,” says Dan, adding that memories from childhood — such as watching a covey of quail scoot along in front of the tractor while cultivating soybeans — also stoke his creative fire. “I like to do a little of everything.” When carving creatures such as these northern cardinals, Dan tries to add intricate details that help tell a story. photo courtesy of Barb Brueggeman 14 Whether he’s using knives or rotary power tools, Dan Brueggeman of Henley brings life to his wood sculptures. Whittling wildlife Henley woodcarver finds inspiration in his backyard He says carvings of backyard birds the details of every feather on a duck’s back or such as cardinals and chickadees are every scale on a smallmouth bass. Dan carves mostly in tupelo. He says the always popular. Because they are the official state bird, bluebirds sell particuwood is moderately soft, and its tight, Henley indistinct grain provides a canvas that is larly well in the Show-Me State. • consistent and ideal for highlighting “And hummingbirds, I can’t carve both individual details in the carving hummingbirds fast enough,” Dan quips. and subtle nuances of the vibrant col“If I have a hummingbird carving on the ors he hand paints on each piece. table at a show, it’s gone.” Costs vary greatly for Dan’s work. A Although producing sculptures that pay carving of an individual songbird feather displayed the bills is important, Dan is constantly expanding in a shadow box retails for $100, whereas larger his artistic horizon. He enjoys working on larger, pieces fetch as much as $7,500. complex pieces, especially those that impart the illuHundreds of ideas for carvings float around in sion of movement. Carving birds in flight is a forte Dan’s head awaiting the day when knife meets for the artist. In the past, Dan has carved both a lifewood. One piece he’s committed to carving involves sized red-tailed hawk with a 48-inch wingspan and a a scene that occurred in his yard nearly 20 years ago. pair of blue-winged teal, wings set as they prepare to One day, he witnessed a woodcock narrowly evade touch down in a marsh. an attacking Cooper’s hawk. Just as the hawk flexed “When I first started, a good friend who pubits talons to grab its prey, the woodcock burst from lished an art magazine told me, ‘Whatever you do, his perch and took flight in the opposite direction. tell a story with each piece,’” he says. “In the end, The hawk banked and began his pursuit. the goal is to make people forget that it’s wood.” “That’s the moment I’m going to carve, with the Eunice Wallar, owner of Waverly House Gifts and hawk’s wings flared as he turns in chase and the Gallery in Springfield, Mo., has carried Dan’s sculpleaves flying as the woodcock takes off,” he says. tures for many years. She says the realism found in While it bears little resemblance to his work his wildlife carvings sets him apart from others. today, Dan’s first carving still sits on a shelf in his “Many sculptors try, but few capture the true studio and serves as a reminder of how far he’s spirit and gracefulness of the wildlife,” she says, come. While he may now use power tools to impart noting that one of Dan’s carvings — a Caroever-increasing detail in his carvings, he still enjoys lina wren — can be found on her dining picking up a knife and whittling an afternoon away. room buffet. “Many folks can relate to his “That’s the visceral, hands-on part of wood carvsubject matter, especially the songbirds.” ing,” he says. “I still enjoy the feeling of drawing a To achieve realistic detail in his work, knife through the wood and making chips.” Dan’s toolbox contains more than simple carving knives. Rotary power tools To learn more about Dan’s artwork, visit his website, originally designed for the dental, or call 573-353-1039. pliance industry are ideal for carving WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013

Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Whittling wildlife
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - February 2013