This Is Carolina: Waterway Woodcarvers whittling wood into art

“It’s rewarding to see people pick up a knife and do some work.”
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 6:35 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 11:35 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Practice and patience. A group of woodcarvers gets together once a week to create art and memories.

“We do more kibitzing than we do carve. Let’s put it that way,” laughed founder Richie McGrath.

Between the coffee and candid conversations, the Waterway Woodcarvers whittle down works of art, handpicking their favorite woods and using specific tools to craft their creations.

“Some of the pieces I do, I try to have lots of detail like these pieces here,” said Tony Iannotta.

Iannotta carved as a kid but didn’t pick up a knife again until 2003. Now, he’s perfecting his talent with intricate caricatures and paying respect to first responders with his latest piece of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

“Right now, I’m carving the smoke that came from the first tower,” he said.

Not all members are experts when it comes to chiseling. Wendy Bennett joined the group in January and said she enjoys learning the ropes and the wood.

“I’m retired and I want to try different things,” said Bennett. “It’s all done by hand. You have to sharpen the tools as you go and you have to use different knives for different cuts. I like make-and-take. So, I like to say, ‘Oh, I made this, you know.’ So, it’s just rewarding for me.”

Christl Bragan signed up her son last year and ended up sticking around.

“I did not expect to like it. But, it is now a time every week that I truly look forward to. This is my mini vacation every week when nobody bothers me because I’m here for my son,” said Bragan.

No matter the reason for joining, the group said it’s a relaxing way to spend some time.

“It’s rewarding to see people pick up a knife and do some work,” said McGrath.

McGrath’s love for woodcarving persuaded him to create the group in 2004, so folks can continue their favorite hobby or learn to start a new one.

“We start with something simple like comfort birds and we work our way wherever the person wants to go,” he said. “If that’s the best you can do today. Fantastic. Worry about it another day and just go from there.”

And just like their carving knives, the Waterway Woodcarvers said there’s nothing dull about it.

“I love it. I love the company. These men and women are so talented, they’re so nice, they’re so helpful,” said Bennett.

“Come and join us. Have a cup of coffee. Kibitz and enjoy,” said McGrath.

The Waterway Woodcarvers meet every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Discipleship House behind the Church of the Resurrection on bypass 17 in Surfside Beach. It is free to join!

For more information, call Richie McGrath at 843-903-3238 or Kurt Jarvis at 801-884-7440.

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