Few people have a name to match their profession quite like Robbie Carver.
Give Carver 10 minutes and a block of wood, and the man from Anchorage, Alaska will make a small critter appear from a cloud of wood shavings. A former construction worker turned artist, he is displaying his wares this weekend at the Home and Garden Show in Centralia.
“I had an interest in carving back when I worked in construction,” Carver said. “Using a chainsaw seemed like the fastest way to get it done. Then I started doing competitions, which is really where I developed my skill.”
Carver often puts on demonstrations when he travels around the lower 48 states, setting up shop outside a hardware store or trade show so people can watch the process from start to finish. A Stihl chainsaw handles the broad strokes before a Dremel tags in for detail work.
At the Home and Garden Show Friday, he occupied a patch of grass outside the main entrance to the Northwest Sports Hub. Birds of various sizes and colors form an amphitheater of sorts around a quartet of stumps that function as woodsy pottery wheels.
Carver’s specialty is marine wildlife such as trout, flounder and whales. A booth of his inside the show featured carvings of a bald eagle, a bear standing on its hind legs, and a bench. His wife, Karen, quit her office job in Anchorage last year so she could join her husband when he manages to escape the harsh winters of Alaska. She often manages the indoor displays while he puts on a show outside.
The duo tends to stay in Anchorage during the summer months that make it a hotbed of tourist activity, but stray far from the land of the midnight sun once the temperature plummets.
“This is the first time we’ve really taken the carving business on the road,” she said. “We came here from Puyallup and we’ll be in Portland next week. Then, we’ll get a week back home before doing carvings for a month in New Zealand.”
Another unique aspect of Robbie Carver’s work is the price tag. His smallest items cost as little as $10 with many smaller birds and fish going for under $50. Larger, more intricate pieces such as the eagle and bear go for hundreds of dollars.
He doesn’t bring many of his monumental items on the road with him for a number of reasons. For one, the weight of a towering wood carving is cost prohibitive both for him as a traveling salesman and for a customer stuck trying to take one home.
George Carver also doesn’t want to draw business away from local woodworkers who make their livings off just a few substantial projects each year, though he’s quick to direct them to his website, robbiecarver.com, for examples of custom carvings he’s completed.
“My goal is to make friends in the industry as I travel,” he said. “Local tree services often donate their scrap wood to me and local businesses want me to do demonstrations for their customers. I want to be invited back year after year to places like this.”
The 54th annual Home and Garden Show takes place through this weekend at the NW Sports Hub in Centralia. For more information, go to chamberway.com.