Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Heron, Wren, Owl, Oh My!

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Heron, Wren, Owl, Oh My!

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

The gleam of a true predator is in the eye of a green heron staring at his breakfast. You can almost hear the liquid notes coming from the open mouth of a Carolina wren. These are just two of the beautiful hand-carved examples of Julington Creek Plantation artist Kenneth VanTil.

VanTil is a member of the Northeast Florida Woodcarvers Guild. They meet on the first and third Wednesday evening of each month in the Boy Scout Hut of Christ the King Church on Arlington Road. VanTil said he enjoys the fellowship of the group and has learned much from his fellow crafters over the last six years.

I recently attended a meeting to view some of the projects of the carvers and whittlers of the area. There were fish, fowl, flowers and birds. There were folk puzzles and full-sized replicas. There were miniature frogs and turtles and two ants walking on leaves. There were two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces in all different styles, sizes and variety of interests. A special guest even displayed some of the carved gourds she sells. And VanTil displayed the life-sized green heron he had just finished.

"A friend in New Jersey got me started and taught me some of the basics of wood carving," VanTil said. "I still have the first bird I carved. I kept it to remind myself of just how bad I really was back then. I have learned a lot from experts like well-known whittler Ken Fowler, and our guild president Bud Evans. Evans has taught me so much. I wouldn't be still carving if it wasn't for him."

VanTil said he still remembers the first group project he started with the guild. Each member was to carve and paint a sanderling, a small shore bird. Because he still did a lot of traveling at that time, he wasn't at the meeting when the other members learned how to paint all the details on the bird, so he was unable to finish it. Evans invited VanTil to his home for a private lesson on how to finish the project. From then on, he was hooked. He has done approximately 35 to 40 birds since then.

In addition to the green heron, wrens, and sanderlings, VanTil has worked on yellowlegs, owls, black capped chickadees, titmice, and hummingbirds, just to name a few. …

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