Woodcarving is more fun at a group gathering.
That is the opinion of a group of carvers who meet weekly in downtown Iola.
The Chippers and Sippers group meets at Lessons From the Art on Tuesday afternoons from late fall through spring.
“Meeting as a group helps keep one carving,” said Lee Halverson. “We help each other with ideas.”
According to Halverson, the weekly gathering started with a few people who had done a bit of carving.
Some had been in other groups that met in Wisconsin Rapids, Waupaca and the Fox Valley area. Others had taken classes and wanted to do more carving.
“We found out about each other and thought we should meet in Iola so we didn’t have to do so much driving,” Halverson said.
He described the group as amateur carvers getting together and doing their own thing. It is not a class.
Most who attend are retired and only recently took up woodcarving.
Merlin Mayer has lived in Iola for the past 30 years. He started carving 28 years ago when he met the late Lee Nelson, who was an expert woodcarver.
“It’s about as good a pastime as you can find,” Mayer said.
He mostly carves birds, fish, ducks and raptors.
“You look at the wood and then decide what to make from it,” he said.
Mayer does not market his products. He feels that deadlines and mass production take the joy out of carving.
“I just have fun doing it,” he said.
Dana Rima took a woodcarving class after moving to Scandinavia four years ago.
He carves things to give to family and friends.
“It’s more fun when you bounce around ideas with others,” Rima said. “It’s not that much fun to do it alone.”
Bob Nelson has lived in Iola one year, and he found the woodcarving group immediately.
“For a little town, Iola has a lot going for it,” he said. “There is stuff happening all the time.”
Nelson inherited carving tools and drawings from his father, who lived in Texas. He is currently working on carving a dulcimer from one of his father’s sketches.
“I’m new at it,” Nelson said. “The intricate work intrigued me.”
Jim Johnson wanted a winter hobby to take up when he moved to Iola from Waupaca eight years ago. He started carving four years ago.
“Woodcarving is a good pastime in the winter months when I’m not snowshoeing,” he said.
Johnson likes to carve song birds.
“My whole life I’ve admired good bird carvings,” he said. “Mine aren’t that good yet.”
After spending a few hours carving, the group samples wine supplied by Bob Thompson, who moved to Iola 12 years ago. He has been a winemaker for the past 10 years.
“We have a good time carving, and then we do some sipping,” Thompson said. “They test and critique my product.”
Therefore, the group is known as “Chippers & Sippers.”
For more information, call Halverson at 715-677-4981.