Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carving His Niche Retiree Turning Wood Pieces into Beauty

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carving His Niche Retiree Turning Wood Pieces into Beauty

Article excerpt

Garald Hook of St. Charles says he can't remember a time when he wasn't working with wood or building furniture. The many well-crafted bookcases, cupboards and cabinets that stand in his house are ample testimony to how much he enjoys his work.

Hook, 72, who retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1982 after 33 years as a manufacturing supervisor, not only makes furniture, he decorates it. He took up wood carving shortly after retirement because he needed a hobby, he says.

Items he has carved stand on tables and in display cases in a large room in his basement, which appears to be a mini-museum exhibiting his many and varied collections. His basement houses a huge assortment of fossils, shark teeth, gems and minerals, arrowheads, and mounted butterflies and other insects he has amassed over the years.

Graceful herons, sturdy boars and bison carved from sassafras stand shoulder to shoulder with owls, eagles and pelicans of wild cherry wood and hawks of bass wood. The menagerie also includes carved whales, seals, donkeys, elephants, duck decoys and frogs. And there are lovely wooden bowls, even a beautifully carved miniature boot.

These dozens of carvings and a row of lifelike wooden faces - the tree bark still intact at their necks - are beautifully done by an obviously skilled pair of hands, but none of these represents the wood carving Hook likes best.

"Every wood carver has his or her own special interest, and that's true of each of the 40 active members of the St. Charles Area Wood Carvers Club, a group I helped found 10 years ago," he says. "My main interest is in carving totem poles. So far I've made 20."

Eleven of the poles, which range in height from 8 inches to 8 feet, stand like a small forest on his desk and the floor of Hook's display room. He has kept all but two of them. His brother has one in his home in Seattle, and Hook donated the other to St. Charles' Sacred Heart Academy for an auction.

He describes his works of art lovingly, one by one and explains that he carves them in a style that was used by American Indians in the Northwest, northern California, Oregon, Washington, western Canada and Alaska.

"I carve a stylized thunderbird at the top of every totem," he says, picking up a 20-inch specimen made from gleaming red-brown northern cedar. "No one has ever seen the mythical thunderbird, so their appearance varies tribe to tribe."

The thunderbird, which looks somewhat like an eagle, "represents wisdom and strength," Hook says.

Hook holds up an 8-inch pole made from red Missouri cedar; a 20-inch totem carved from dark-brown walnut with a bear clutching a salmon at its base; and two gold-colored totems of Canadian birch, one standing 12 inches and the other 16 inches.

Impressive in large part because of their size are a 6-foot-tall catalpa totem that was made in fitted-together sections and a magnificent 8-foot-tall walnut totem carved from a single piece. …

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