The First Stage Gallery in the Lyric Center for the Arts is presenting an exhibit of traditional wood carving by Ryan Toot and Tom Dengler during the month of October. The exhibit, called ‘Green Wood Bowls,” shows Scandinavian hand carving techniques for bowls and spoons.
Ryan Toot has been actively working with wood since 2012, though he has been drawn to natural materials since his youth near Virginia, Minnesota. His primary focus began with making knife handles, spoons and shrink boxes in the Scandinavian tradition. In addition he has made snowshoe frames in the Attikamek tradition, birch bark containers in the Russian tradition and traditional black ash splint baskets.
“I am fascinated by and driven to making utilitarian objects needed for exploration of the wilds, harvesting wild food, and for home life” says Toot. He is continuing to develop his traditional woodworking skills by constantly challenging himself to make different objects and deepening his skill through the repetition of making an object.
For this body of work, Ryan studied with Tom Dengler through the aid of a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. The work her represents traditional craft practiced in the modern day.
Tom Dengler was drawn to woodworking in junior high through the need to make his own skateboards. He started learning carpentry as a profession in 1984 and worked on multiple 18th century homes. During this period he attended the Boston Architectural Center where he slowly began to learn about traditional building and woodworking trades.
Tom joined the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association at a tool swap held at Murphey’s Landing in Shakopee, MN, where he later volunteered as an interpreter at the Heritage Park on weekends. A man he befriended there showed him how to carve a spoon in the Swedish style and opened his eyes to Swedish carving techniques.
All of the bowls and spoons in the exhibit are hand carved from recently fallen wood. “Wood is much easier to work with hand tools before it is dried and loses all of its moisture. Drying must then be done evenly and slowly to avoid checks and cracks” says Toot.
A hand axe was then used to shape the outside, followed by a draw knife. Small details were done with a simple carving knife. The inside of the bowls is carved with a bowl adze. The bowls are finished with a mixture of food-grade flax (linseed) oil and beeswax. These objects are made to be used.
The work for this exhibit is made possible by a grant Ryan Toot received from the Minnesota State Arts Board, made possible by the voters of Minnesota and thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
A reception will be held at The First Stage Gallery on Saturday, October 7 from noon to 3pm. The exhibit will be in the gallery from October 5 through 28. Gallery hours are Thursdays through Saturdays, 11am to 3pm. During the Lyric’s storefront reconstruction project the gallery is temporarily located at 516 Chestnut Street downtown Virginia.